Countries Made Bold Climate Promises Last Year. How Are They Doing?

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Most nations are only getting started. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed, but not finalized, new regulations to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, while Congress provided $4.7 billion to plug old, leaky wells. This summer, the United States and European Union also announced a new partnership with countries like Canada, Japan, Nigeria, Mexico to put nearly $60 million into efforts to plug methane leaks and monitor emissions with satellites.

Yet dozens of other countries that signed the pledge have not yet provided detail on how they plan to tackle methane, according to a recent analysis by the World Resources Institute.

Rising geopolitical tensions have also slowed progress: One of the major developments in Glasgow was a new agreement between the United States and China to work together to curb methane emissions. But China abruptly halted all climate cooperation between the two countries shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August.

More than 130 countries also pledged in Glasgow to “halt and reverse” deforestation by 2030 and commit billions of dollars toward the effort. That included Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, home to most of the world’s tropical forests.

So far, the world is not on track for that goal. The amount of global deforestation declined 6.3 percent between 2020 and 2021, according to a recent report by the Forest Declaration Platform. That’s the good news. The bad news is deforestation would need to decline much faster, roughly 10 percent each year, for countries to meet their 2030 goal.

A number of countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Ivory Coast and Ghana, made major progress in protecting their forests, the report said. After suffering extensive forest and peat fires in 2016, Indonesia has put in place tougher regulations on its palm oil industry, while corporations have faced pressure to reduce deforestation.

It’s a different story in Congo, where the government this year auctioned off large swaths of its rain forest for oil drilling. The move came after international donors pledged $500 million to help the country curb deforestation. With crude oil prices soaring, Congo shifted its priorities, insisting that oil development was needed to provide economic growth.

Brazil remains a wild card. Deforestation in the Amazon accelerated after Mr. Bolsonaro took office in 2019 and cut funding for environmental protection while encouraging logging and mining. The country’s newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, oversaw a decline in deforestation the last time he was in office, from 2003 to 2010, and has promised to do so again, though analysts say it won’t be easy.


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