More than 30 countries set the first-ever deadline on Tuesday to end deforestation by 2030, but the feasibility of such a goal was eroded when a key player, Brazil, said it would not join.
The United States, Canada and the entire European Union signed on to a declaration to halve forest loss by 2020 and eliminate deforestation entirely by 2030.
“This is the family photo we have been looking for decades,” said Charles McNeill, a senior environmental policy adviser for the U.N. Development Program. “The forest issue is where everyone comes together.”
But, like in any family, there were signs of dysfunction before the agreement was formally unveiled Tuesday. Brazil said it would not endorse the pledge, complaining it was not included in the preparation process.
Brazil’s position also highlighted the divisions between countries as they prepare to continue formal negotiations later this year in Peru in the hopes of meeting a late 2015 deadline for a new international treaty.
“Unfortunately, we were not consulted. But I think that it’s impossible to think that you can have a global forest initiative without Brazil on board. It doesn’t make sense,” Brazilian Environment Minister Izabella Teixeira said Monday.
If the goal is met, the United Nations says it would be the equivalent of taking every car in the world off the road. The group also pledged to restore more than 1million square miles of forest worldwide by 2030.
Norway pledged to spend 350million dollars to protect forests in Peru and another 100million in Liberia. Dozens of companies, environmental groups and indigenous groups signed on.
However without Brazil, a halt to deforestation would nearly be impossible.
“A deforestation agreement without Brazil is like a carbon reduction plan without the United States,” said Paul Wapner, professor of international environmental policy at American University.