Bringing back degraded and deforested lands can help stabilise the climate while sustainably supporting global and local economies, say experts
Leaders from various countries, including India, have pledged to restore an additional 18 million hectares of degraded forests across the world at COP 21 in Paris. Government and business representatives from Burundi, Honduras, India, Mexico and Pakistan announced their pledges on Sunday.
The contributions come under the Bonn Challenge, a global initiative launched by Germany and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2011 to have 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land under restoration by 2020. This target was endorsed by the UN Climate Summit in 2014 and extended to 350 million hectares under restoration by 2030. The Bonn Challenge is not a new global commitment, but rather a practical means of realising many existing international commitments, including the CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity) Aichi Target 15, the UNFCCC REDD+ goal, and the Rio+20 land degradation neutral goal.
With the announcements on Sunday, the total Bonn Challenge pledges include restoration of just over 86 million hectares of degraded forests across the world.
From India, J R Bhatt, advisor with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, announced India’s 13-million-hectare commitment. India is the first among BRIC countries committed to the Bonn Challenge.
Speaking at COP 21, IUCN Director General Inger Andersen said, "Forest landscape restoration is a no-regrets option. 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. It is encouraging to see more countries and businesses recognising the power and cost-effectiveness of nature-based solutions like forest landscape restoration. Delegates here in Paris must take these solutions into account when finalising the new climate agreement."
Experts say that 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 CO2 equivalent annually. Prior to COP 21, 13 countries and a regional alliance had pledged almost 60 million hectares to the Bonn Challenge.
"Paris COP 21 and Global Landscapes Forum 2015 are not just about political commitments. They are about actions and implementation," says Franzjosef Schafhausen, director general at Climate Policy, Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, Government of Germany. "Bringing back degraded and deforested lands can help stabilise the climate while sustainably supporting global and local economies."
Pledges also came from the private sector with Asia Pulp and Paper—one of the biggest producers of pulp, paper and packaging—becoming the first private-sector participant to pledge to the Bonn Challenge. The new commitments were made during the Global Landscapes Forum at a session hosted by IUCN.
|Commitments to restore degraded forests
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