Reforestation for Climate Action

The Bonn Challenge

Reforestation for Climate Action

Reforestation. Creative Commons: Andres Azpurua

Going hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce deforestation, urgent action is needed to restore the planet’s vast areas of degraded land back to productivity. The Bonn Challenge offers an unprecedented opportunity to curb degradation and harness the potential of forest landscapes to improve people’s lives and tackle climate change.

In 2011, a group of leaders from around the world took a bold step towards reversing deforestation and land degradation by launching the Bonn Challenge – a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of degraded land into restoration by 2020, later extended by the New York Declaration on Forests to at least 350 million hectares by 2030.

The Bonn Challenge directly addresses national priorities such as food security and job creation, while simultaneously contributing to achieving international climate change, biodiversity and land degradation commitments.

To date, there have been 38 commitments to the Bonn Challenge from national and sub-national governments, public-private alliances and companies, totaling almost 125 million hectares. These leaders of the global restoration movement are already taking steps to translate their pledges into on-the-ground action, with support from members of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR). IUCN is developing a Bonn Challenge Barometer to track progress, and the Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology (ROAM), developed by IUCN and WRI, is currently being applied in more than 30 countries to identify places where restoration could begin.

Governments and regional institutions are driving a suite of “home grown” high-level dialogues to build inter-country cooperation on the Bonn Challenge and catalyze implementation, including in 2016 in Latin America and in East, Central and West Africa, and 2017 in Asia and Southern Africa. In addition, the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) and Initiative 20x20 in Latin America are fostering leadership and collaboration in support of the Bonn Challenge.

A Basket of Benefits

Achieving the 150 million hectare target will create approximately USD 85 billion per year in net benefits to local and national economies. Achieving the 350 million hectare goal will generate about USD 170 billion per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products, and would sequester an average of 0.6 to 1.7 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually to 2030. In many parts of the world, forest landscape restoration interventions are already yielding results:

  • Applying agroforestry systems to cocoa plantations in Ghana has helped bring landscapes back to health while increasing revenue for local communities.
  • In Rwanda, government officials were able to use the results of a ROAM assessment to develop a national forest landscape restoration financing strategy to bridge the gap between small-scale farmers and financial institutions.
  • The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program in the United States is creating and maintaining about 5,000 jobs per year while reducing the impacts of catastrophic wildfire and enhancing clear water supplies.
  • In northern Vietnam, a community-led initiative on mangrove restoration has stabilized the livelihoods of women who now focus on collecting aquatic products and raising honeybees.
  • In Guatemala, a pilot project on reviving traditional land-use strategies, in line with the national forest landscape restoration policy, is improving crop yields in a food-insecure region.

The world needs solutions that tackle climate change, species extinction, food security and other crises in a coherent way – disjointed responses can undermine each other, and their negative effects are worst felt in rural communities. Restoration and revitalization of forest landscapes through the Bonn Challenge offers a vehicle for dealing with different challenges effectively at the same time, bringing multiple wins that support communities, mitigate and reduce the impacts of climate change, and strengthen economies.