Since 2011, countries participating in the Bonn Challenge have restored more than 60 million hectares of forests and landscapes and are on track to meet an ambitious global restoration goal of 150 million hectares by 2020. Environment ministers from around the world marked the significant progress at the second international Bonn Challenge conference in Germany on March 20 – 21.
"We are well on our way to achieving our goal of restoring a total of 150 million hectares of destroyed forests by 2020," said Federal Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks.
The Bonn Challenge is the most important international conference on forest restoration. It brings together a group of committed countries with organizations, companies and donor countries such as Germany and Norway. In addition to Environment Minister Hendricks, the hosts include Norway's Minister of Climate and Environment Tine Sundtoft, International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Director General Inger An-dersen and World Resources Institute (WRI) President Andrew Steer.
The target of 150 million hectares of restored forests and landscapes announced in 2011 corresponds to an area that is four times as large as Germany. These measures alone would make a tangible contribution to climate action. In addition to this, the focus of restoration is on countries in the tropics and subtropics - the most species-rich regions of the world.
Federal Environment Minister Hendricks said: "With the restoration of forests we can pursue multiple objectives simultaneously: We can do something about climate change and species extinction and help restore the livelihoods of millions of people. We are now working together to spread this approach to the world. I welcome the new regional initiatives in Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa announced in Bonn. Together with other donors we will actively support these promising projects."
"We are now at the point where just reducing emissions will not be enough. We must actively remove carbon out of the atmosphere. Forest restoration is the most cost-effective carbon capture option we have. The New Climate Economy Report from last year showed us that conserving and enhancing the forests can be done. And it can be done while also achieving economic growth, said Tine Sundtoft, Minister of the Climate and Environment in Norway.
The conference participants announced plans to launch a series of initiatives and partnerships for the restoration of forests. El Salvador wants to launch a Central American partnership and will host a regional kick-off conference. In Africa, Ethiopia and Liberia are working on the Great Green Wall Initiative, which aims to curb the spread of the Sahara by restoring forests. In Southeast Asia in turn there are ideas to extend the cooperation between governments and companies on forest restoration. The Bonn Challenge sees itself as a platform for action that supports these activities and brings together partners around the idea of "learning from each other - getting things done together".
Germany has become a pioneer in this field. Since 2011, the Federal Environment Ministry, through its International Climate Initiative (ICI), has provided about 50 million euros in support for developing countries to implement the Bonn Challenge. Following this conference, the Federal Environment Ministry will continue to support projects for the restoration of forests in developing countries. The Ministry will make around 40 million euros available for this in the years to come.
"Restoring millions of hectares of degraded land is one of the great ideas of our times. It reduces poverty, improves food security, strengthens the economy, and dramatically reduces carbon pollution in the atmosphere. No wonder, then, that political and financial momentum is building across every continent." said Dr. Andrew Steer, President & CEO, WRI. "The Bonn Challenge has been critical in spurring excitement around this idea – with over 60 million hectares already committed toward meeting the goal. New business models are emerging, and deeper technical understanding is fostering unprecedented interest from governments, private sector, and communities."
"The world is recognising that forest landscape restoration offers a critical contribution to addressing some of our global challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity, food security and economic growth," said Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN, one of the co-hosts of the event. "The Bonn Challenge is about much more than simply planting trees – it’s about addressing the most pressing issues of our generation, and of future generations."
The conference endorsed regional landscape restoration programs around the globe. Regional programs, such as Initiative 20x20 in Latin America and the Caribbean, and Vision 25x25 in Africa are bringing the global Bonn Challenge closer to the ground, helping it gain traction and turning the goal into a reality. Regional initiatives help countries with similar cultures and land-scapes share experiences and increase private and public financial support.