Meet the Kentish Town woman behind the COP26 deforestation declaration 

Joanna Macrae

Joanna Macrae - Credit: Joanna Macrae

A woman from Kentish Town has described her contribution to the COP26 deforestation declaration as a “huge privilege”. 

Joanna Macrae, 54, attended the summit on November 2 to advocate for the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration on Forest and Land Use, which has since been signed by more than 130 countries.

By reducing the economic incentives of unsustainable food and commodity production, the declaration aims to reverse deforestation by 2030.

She told the Ham&High: “It was both very humbling and a huge privilege to be there at COP26 alongside an incredible team of people. 

“We worked with an extraordinary network of partners to put deforestation on the climate map and show that it requires urgent political attention alongside the other drivers of climate change.

“There's now more of a recognition that if we are to stay within 1.5 degrees Celsius, we have to harness the power of our natural resources, whether that is forest or the ocean."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a session on November 2, focused on deforestation 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson chaired a session on November 2, focused on deforestation - Credit: Paul Ellis/PA

Joanna, who is part of the government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), decided to focus on the conservation of biodiversity after identifying climate change as “the defining challenge of our time”.

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“I think trees and forests matter to us on a deep spiritual level,” she said. “If we lose our forests, we lose something that's incredibly meaningful and important to everyone”.

Joanna, who previously played an active role in Climate Emergency Camden, described the new declaration as a statement of political intent.

As well as contributing to establishing a day for biodiversity at COP26, her team was responsible for mobilising funding and developing the tools to support the transition from unsustainable production.

Twin Geoffroy's marmosets at London Zoo.

Twin Geoffroy's marmosets at London Zoo. The species' numbers are declining due to deforestation and can only be found in the coastal rainforests of eastern Brazil - Credit: Johnny Green/PA


Whilst expressing optimism, Joanna stressed that more needs to be done: “We have to take that success from COP26, build on it, and continue to work really hard to keep it alive.

“The plain truth is none of us are doing enough whether that be at a personal, local, or national level.

“We need to be more informed about why climate change is a danger because I think, for most of us, it doesn't feel very real. We think of it as something quite far in the future that might or might not happen. 

“So, for that reason, we need a lot more engagement of citizens, in terms of just how dangerous climate change is to this and future generations”.

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