The Bonn Challenge for forest restoration

The Bonn Challenge is a global initiative to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020. Countries and companies have pledged to participate.

The Bonn Challenge Photo: The Bonn Challenge

There are over 2 billion hectares of degraded and deforested land worldwide. In many cases, these landscapes have lost their ability to provide ecosystem services that are essential to people, wildlife and the planet. Deforestation can also accelerate global warming; fewer trees and less forest leaves our planet more exposed to the sun and less able to pull and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Forest landscape restoration (FLR) is a process that aims to regain the ecological integrity of deforested or degraded forest landscapes. But FLR is more than just planting trees. It involves a range of interventions – from agroforestry and natural regeneration, to soil management and rainfall harvesting – to help forests perform the ecosystem functions that provide goods and services such as food, fuel and clean water. FLR has many benefits, including reducing the vulnerability of local communities, supporting economic sectors and contributing to climate change mitigation efforts.

“Forest landscape restoration is a no-regrets option,” says IUCN Director General Inger Andersen. “In addition to its invaluable carbon sequestration potential, it offers a whole suite of benefits, including food security and soil conservation in Ethiopia, water for megacities in China, and rural development and jobs in Guatemala.”

The Bonn Challenge is a global initiative launched by Germany and IUCN in 2011 to have 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land under restoration by 2020. In 2014, this target was endorsed by the UN Climate Summit and raised to 350 million hectares by 2030.

The UN climate change conference in Paris 2015 (COP 21) gave a major push to the initiative. Government and business representatives from Burundi, Honduras, India, three Mexican states, KPK province of Pakistan and Asia Pulp and Paper announced new pledges to restore up to 18 million hectares of degraded forests, bringing the total Bonn Challenge pledges to just over 86 million hectares as of today.

India pledged to restore 13 million hectares as the first BRIC country to make a Bonn Challenge commitment. Asia Pulp and Paper – one of the biggest producers of pulp, paper and packaging in the world – pledged to restore one million hectares. It is the first private-sector entity to engage in the Challenge.

The new commitments were made during COP21’s Global Landscapes Forum – where over 3000 people came together to forge solutions to the planet’s greatest climate and development challenges through sustainable land use – at a session hosted by IUCN.

Achieving the 350 million-hectare goal could generate US$ 170 billion per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products, and could sequester up to 1.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.

In advance of the IUCN Congress, IUCN and the United States Forest Service are co-hosting a high-level Bonn Challenge event in Hawai’i August 30-31, to help push the initiative even further toward its goals. 

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