Global initiative celebrates milestone, but warns governments are undervaluing benefits of nature-based climate solutions for cutting CO2 and boosting economies
More than 210 million hectares of degraded land worldwide is now being targeted for restoration or reforestation under the Bonn Challenge, a major global initiative which claims nature-based climate solutions are playing a crucial yet undervalued role in boosting biodiversity, capturing CO2, and driving economic benefits.
Launched by the German government in 2011, the Bonn Challenge centres on a global goal to encourage national and regional governments around the world to together bring 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020, rising to 350 million hectares by 2030.
Pledges from global governments had already surpassed the 150 million hectare mark in 2017, and fresh analysis today by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reveals the total figure pledged for restoration has now surpassed 210 million hectares.
Environmental campaigner Bianca Jagger, the IUCN's ambassador for the Bonn Challenge, said nature-based solutions and land restoration had "great power to effect change at every level of society", providing a "cornucopia of benefits" for governments, companies, and landowners alike.
"It will benefit people everywhere, including the world's poorest and most vulnerable by creating jobs, stable water supplies and more climate resilient crops," she said. "With the Bonn Challenge, we can plant the seeds for a healthier planet. Seeds that will grow and save lives and inject billions into the world's economies."
However, the IUCN report also warns that nations are "leaving their best players on the bench" in the fight against climate change, with its analysis showing 70 per cent of governments' CO2 targets under the Paris Agreement CO2 do not include goals for forest landscape restoration.
As many as 117 of the 166 countries that have submitted national climate action plans - known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement - have not yet set forest land restoration targets for the absorption of CO2, despite the significant potential for such efforts to help reduce emissions, the IUCN said.
The report estimates that if countries currently signed up to the Bonn Challenge fully incorporated their forest restoration targets into their Paris Agreement NDCs, it could help remove up to 15 billion additional tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year.
Moreover, it emphasises that land restoration makes for a savvy investment, estimating that every dollar spent on efforts such as agroforestry, mangrove restoration, tree planting, soil and coastal erosion control generates at least $9 of economic benefits in return.
As such, achieving the Bonn Challenge goal to restore or reforest 350 million hectares of degraded land worldwide by 2030 could generate $9tr in ecosystem services, while also removing an additional 13-26 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, according to the report.
It also points out that over half of the world's GDP - around $44tr - is potentially threatened by the loss of nature, with the destruction of natural ecosystems posing myriad financial threats to the global economy.
To date, 61 countries and eight states or regional governments have signed up to the Bonn Challenge.
Germany's state secretary for environment, nature conservation, and nuclear safety, Jochen Flasbarth, said the next decade would be "critical" in the drive to restore the world's forests, ecosystems and degraded land.
"We have put the building blocks in place," he said. "When it comes to FLR, we know how and where to restore, we know how to monitor restoration progress in order to pinpoint where we need to improve and how to scale up. All we need is that small push, that next catalyst to restore our future."
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