World leaders announced on Tuesday in New York new pledges to restore over 30 million hectares of degraded forest lands today at the UN Climate Summit. The commitments come from Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, and Uganda, among others, and more than doubled the number of hectares contributing to achieving the Bonn Challenge – a global goal to restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020.
These announcements came alongside an extension of the global restoration target to at least 350 million hectares – an area greater than the size of India – to be restored by 2030. This new target was unveiled at the Summit today in the New York Declaration on Forests. The Declaration, signed by IUCN, as well as more than 100 countries, corporations, indigenous peoples and civil society also calls for a halving of deforestation rates by 2020 and an end to global deforestation altogether by 2030.
“The courageous leadership demonstrated by these countries towards achieving the Bonn Challenge, and by the wide range of global leaders in support of the New York Declaration on Forests, underlines that nature-based solutions such as forest landscape restoration can play a vital role in our fight against climate change and addressing the fundamental need to reduce emissions,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN.
IUCN estimates that meeting the 150 million hectare Bonn Challenge target alone could add approximately $ 85 billion to national and local economies and remove an additional one billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year.
UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said, “Today’s pledges by countries in Africa and Latin America to combat deforestation and more than double restoration targets will bring significant climate benefits. At the same time, such inspiring initiatives will contribute significantly to poverty reduction, economic development and food security across countries and regions.”
The restoration pledges and the New York Declaration on Forests arrive in preparation for next year’s climate talks in Paris, which are largely expected to result in a new global climate deal. Progress in New York signals significant support for ramping up restoration of lost and degraded forest lands as part of the post-2015 Paris climate agreements and development agenda.
“Restoration of degraded and deforested lands is not simply about planting trees, said Bianca Jagger, IUCN Ambassador for the Bonn Challenge, and Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation. “People and communities are at the heart of the restoration effort, which transforms barren or degraded areas of land into healthy, fertile working landscapes.”
“The New York Declaration on Forests is a milestone as we enter the restoration generation,” said Andrew Steer, President and CEO, World Resources Institute. “It’s a triple win that can bring more water and food security, improve livelihoods, and help tackle climate change. We look forward to working with leaders to help ensure that they deliver on these commitments that will benefit people and the planet,”
Restoration pledges to the Bonn Challenge represent commitments from the highest level to start actual restoration work on the ground in support of each nation’s or organization’s individual objectives.
“IUCN-led work on forest landscape restoration began in the field and is now back in the field,” said Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of Nature-Based Solutions at IUCN. “What started as a grassroots approach to address local needs and challenges has now captured the attention of public, private, and civil society leaders around the world. These leaders are now initiating action on the ground to simultaneously meet local needs and international climate change commitments.”