More than 100 global leaders have pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by the end of the decade, underpinned by $19 billion in public and private funds to invest in protecting and restoring forests.

The promise, made in a joint statement issued late on Monday at the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow, was backed by the leaders of countries including Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which collectively account for 85% of the world’s forests.

The Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forest and Land Use will cover forests totaling more than 13 million square miles, according to a statement released by the UK prime minister’s office on behalf of the leaders.

Several additional government and private initiatives were launched on Tuesday to help reach that goal, including billions in pledges for indigenous guardians of the forest and sustainable agriculture.

Forests absorb roughly 30% of carbon dioxide emissions, according to the nonprofit World Resources Institute. The forests take the emissions out of the atmosphere and prevent them from warming the climate.

Yet this natural climate buffer is rapidly disappearing. The world lost 258,000 sq km (99,600 sq miles) of forest in 2020, according to WRI’s deforestation tracking initiative Global Forest Watch, an area larger than the United Kingdom.

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