COP21 Day 2 review: Deforestation top of the unofficial agenda

Tuesday at COP21 was dominated by forests, as a plethora of NGO's, businesses and dignitaries unveiled reforestation pledges, underlining the importance of carbon sequestration in reducing emissions.

A coalition of big businesses – including Unilever and APRIL –  announced a plan to stabilize forest cover by 2030 and restore forest cover to 1990 levels by 2050, equivalent to a 10% increase in the current level of global forest cover.

The plan was announced by the Forest working group, under the banner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative.

The members of the working group advocate for a shift from an economic reliance on fossil-fuels to a renewable, forest-based bioeconomy.

Unilever also said today it had signed a new ‘statement of intent’ alongside Marks and Spencers committing to prioritise the development of sustainable palm oil, beef, paper and other commodities.

Earlier in the day, Prince Charles made a speech warning businesses that they must increase efforts to ensure their supply chains are not contributing to deforestation.

He said: “It is very simple: we must save our forests, for there is no Plan B to tackle climate change or many of the other critical challenges that face humanity without them.”

Everything else you need to know from Tuesday at COP21

Africa set renewables goal

 An alliance of 54 countries known as the African Union announced a plan to mobilize $20bn to develop at least 10 gigawatts of renewable energy on the continent by the end of the decade.

The new African Renewable Energy Initiative then aims to deliver 30 gigawatts of renewable energy to the continent by 2030.

The program is expected be partially funded from the $100bn pledged by rich countries in 2009.

France president Francois Hollande told the conference that his government would double investments in renewable energy generation in Africa to €2bn between 2016 and 2020.

“The world, and in particular the developed world, owes the African continent an environmental debt,” said Hollande.


One of the talking points of the confernce was the array of ‘hacked’ adverts around Paris criticising the corporate ‘greenwashing’ at COP21

Those behind the ‘Brandalism’ project say the spoof adverts aim to “highlight the links between advertising, consumerism, fossil fuel dependency and climate change.”

The project involves 600 adverts created by more than 80 artists from 19 countries.

European Commission lays out its demands

The European Commission tweeted at 1.30pm that it would not sign ‘any deal’. Its demands for the final agreement included a two degree limit, a commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 60% by 2050 compared to 2010 and the decarbonisation of the world economy by the end of the century.

The EU commissioner for climate action and energy, Miguel Arias Cañete, tweeted seperately that the EU’s priorities were long-term goals, 5-year reviews and monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV).

Russia causing trouble

Putin caused a stir with his speech on Monday by suggesting that any deal should be legally binding. Observers suggested the statement was designed to rile up the US delegation since the US Senate has indicated it will not ratify a binding climate agreement.

Russia also came under fire for its weak INDC which delays emissions reduction targets until 2020 and calculates the CO2 storage capacity of its trees as part of its emissions reductions plans.

Obama backs most at risk nations 

President Barack Obama gave his support to the small island nations most threatened by climate change, proclaiming himself ‘an island boy’.

Obama said: “Their populations are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change. Some of their nations could disappear entirely and as weather patterns change, we might deal with tens of millions of climate refugees in the Asia Pacific region.”

The White House confirmed it would invest $30m for climate risk insurance initiatives in the Pacific, Central America, and Africa.

Obama added he was confident that delegates at COP21 would get ‘big things done’ and that his successor in the White House will uphold U.S. commitments in a climate change deal.

Big businesses join White House green pledge

Another 73 companies joined a White House pledge to reduce emissions and water usage, buy renewable energy or take other climate-friendly steps.

 Firms such as Amazon, Airbnb and BMW were among the new signatories to the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, bringing the total to 154 companies.

New tool shows impact of climate change on hunger

The UK’s Met Office and the UN World Food Programme (WFP)  launched an interactive map that shows how how climate change will worsen food insecurity, while also pointing out how mitgation efforts can have a positive impact.

Users can select a time – present day, 2050s and 2080s – and view vulnerability to climate-induced hunger according to adaptation efforts and levels of emissions.

The map shows that a rapid and sustained reduction in future emissions can keep food security steady, while increases in emissions see the planet’s food supply deteriorate 

And the winner is…

Campaign group Climate Network is handing out the ‘fossil of the day’ award to nations that are deemed to be holding the talks back.

The first award of the conference was split between New Zealand for “rather hilariously –  or not –  urging countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies while shelling out big bucks to prop up fossil fuel production to the tune of $80 million”, and Belgium for its lack of preparation and slow progress on emissions reductions targets.

Brad Allen

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie