Dozens of nations on Saturday pledged to do more to protect nature and overhaul farming at the COP26 UN climate talks, amid misgivings about past failures.
Agriculture, deforestation and other changes in land use account for about one-quarter of humanity’s planet-heating greenhouse gas emissions, making reforms vital to safeguard nature and feed a rising global population without stoking global warming.
“Nature and climate are interlinked, and both our people and our surroundings are facing the very real impacts of rising temperatures,” Alok Sharma, the British president of COP26, told a news conference.
He said that 70 percent of tropical corals, which are nurseries for fish, would be lost if temperatures rise 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.
“If we get to two degrees they are all gone,” he added.
Temperatures are already up nearly 1.2°C and the overriding goal of the Glasgow negotiations is to keep alive hopes of limiting warming to 1.5°C, the toughest goal set by almost 200 nations in the 2015 Paris Agreement.
The UK said that 45 nations were on Saturday making pledges to safeguard nature, including Ethiopia, Gabon, Germany, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Japan, Morocco, the Philippines, the US, Uruguay and Vietnam.
Sharma said the pledges included US$4 billion in public sector investment, which would help spur innovation such as developing crops resilient to droughts, floods and heatwaves that could benefit “hundreds of millions of farmers.”
Campaigners said needed shifts to agriculture to curb emissions and protect food security should have a larger share of the global spotlight.
“We need to shine a light on climate justice, and we need to make food and farming sexy,” said Idris Elba, British actor and goodwill ambassador for the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development.
Vanessa Nakate, 24, a climate justice advocate from Uganda, warned that in her country, “we’re watching farms collapse,” with floods, droughts, heatwaves and swarms of locusts making hunger more widespread.
However, past pledges have fallen short.
A UN report last year found that the world had failed to fully meet any of the 20 global goals it set in 2010 to protect biodiversity.
Those ranged from phasing out harmful agricultural subsidies to limiting the loss of forests and raising sufficient finance for developing nations.
Braving heavy rain, tens of thousands of protesters including indigenous people, workers, environmentalists and social activists took to Glasgow’s streets, decrying glacial progress on climate change threats inside the formal COP26 UN summit.
At the city’s Kelvingrove Park, the day of protests started with a rally organized by the Fire Brigades Union demanding green jobs and racial justice.
Vulnerable people in countries that have contributed least to climate change bear the brunt of extreme weather and rising seas on a warming planet, speakers said.
Throngs of protesters, including Swedish teen activist Greta Thunberg, then wound their way through the city center to a second rally at Glasgow Green, where indigenous community members called for rainforest protection and food producers urged ecologically friendly forms of farming.
Asad Rehman, codirector of the COP26 Coalition, which brings together British groups campaigning on climate change, said the Glasgow march was just one of more than 300 climate demonstrations around the world on Saturday as the UN climate talks hit their midpoint.
The coalition estimated that about 120,000 people took to the streets of Glasgow.
Rehman, also director of charity War on Want, pointed to the diversity of protesters, with indigenous peoples, African climate activists and others from developing nations leading the Glasgow march after braving COVID-19 pandemic restrictions to travel to COP26.
“We have built a movement that is not just of environmentalists, but that involves and connects with labor movements, faith organizations [and] grassroots activists,” he said.
That shows how “the [climate] crisis we face is a multiple crisis ... a symptom of a rigged economy and a broken system,” he said.
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