By Arab News
By Frank Kane
World leaders at the COP26 have woken up to the benefits of halting deforestation and desertification — a strategy pioneered by Saudi Arabia as part of the Saudi Green Initiative to combat climate change.
More than 100 countries, including the US, China and Brazil, signed a pledge on Tuesday to “collectively halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.” Together, the signatories comprise 80 percent of the world’s forested areas.
The pledge to plant more trees will be supported by a $12 billion fund for development backed by 12 countries, of which $1.5 billion will go to the Congo Basin, the second largest forested area on Earth after the Amazon. A further $7.2 billion will come from private sector investors, who also pledged to stop investing in activities linked to deforestation such as cattle, palm oil and soybean farming and pulp production.
Environmental experts believe tree planting can help significantly with greenhouse gas emission, and help reduce ambient temperatures in urban areas. Mangrove forests, which are prevalent in the Arabian Gulf, are believed to be particularly effective in carbon neutralization.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched a plan last month to plant hundreds of millions of trees in the Kingdom by 2030 in a move to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere and contribute to the “greening” of the capital, Riyadh.
A Saudi official at COP26 told Arab News: “It is heartening to see that the world is following the example we have set. Reforestation, and the related issue of effective use of water resources, are crucial areas for the Kingdom and the world. As the largest producer of desalinated water in the world, we are keen to develop technologies that effectively deal with irrigation at the same time.”
The COP26 leaders pledged to “conserve forests and other terrestrial ecosystems and accelerate their restoration,” in a declaration on forests and land use.
They also committed to “working collectively to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 while delivering sustainable development and promoting an inclusive rural transformation.”
The agreement was seen as a major advance for the environmental lobby at COP26, and the first big step taken by the Glasgow summit. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who also signed the declaration, called it a “landmark agreement.”