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Governments sign up to Bonn Challenge restoring degraded land

Tuesday 19 Jun 2012 8:34 a.m.

An aerial view of a cleared forest area under development for palm oil plantations in Indonesia's central Kalimantan province (Reuters)

An aerial view of a cleared forest area under development for palm oil plantations in Indonesia's central Kalimantan province (Reuters)

On the eve of the Rio+20 Earth Summit, the first commitments have been made to a campaign to mobilise support for the largest restoration project in history.

At a press conference in Rio de Janeiro the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), accompanied by environmental campaigner Bianca Jagger, announced the first of what they hope will be many signatories to the Bonn Challenge.

The commitments were unveiled by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service (15 Million hectares), the Government of Rwanda (2 million hectares), and the Brazilian Mata Atlantica Forest Restoration Pact-a coalition of government agencies, NGOs and private sector partners (over 1 million hectares).

The total of over 18 million hectares means that more than 10 percent of the Bonn Challenge target of 150 million hectares is already in place. The Bonn Challenge was launched in September 2011 at a ministerial roundtable hosted by Germany, IUCN and the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR). At the same time, IUCN and its partners identified 2 billion hectares around the world as providing opportunities for restoration.

The target to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested forest landscapes - almost three times the size of France - by 2020 would see more than US$80 billion net injected annually into the global economy and the "emissions reduction gap" cut by 11-17 percent.

The announcements at Rio+20 come just days after IUCN and Airbus came together to launch Plant a Pledge an online campaign to rally public support for the Bonn Challenge in the form of a petition to be delivered by campaign ambassador, Bianca Jagger at the UN Climate Change talks in Qatar this November.

The IUCN, supported by Airbus, is asking the global public to call on governments, landowners, corporations and NGOs to make concrete commitments to the Bonn Challenge. The IUCN will use the worldwide collective awareness to get commitments in writing that say where, when and how land will be restored.

Two billion hectares of land worldwide - the size of South America - offer opportunities for forest landscape restoration and each year an area of forest the size of New York State is lost. Repairing landscapes would restore their ability to support people and wildlife and would significantly increase global capacity to process greenhouse gases, according to IUCN.

BACKGROUND

1. The biggest opportunities lie in tropical and temperate regions. There are opportunities in almost every country.

- Africa: more than 700 million hectares

- Asia: more than 400 million hectares

- Latin America: more than 550 million hectares

- Europe: more than 400 million hectares

- North America: more than 300 million hectares

- Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea [PNG] and other Pacific islands): Around 120 million hectares

2. Vast swathes of deforested landscape in Europe and North America have regrown forests. South Korea and Costa Rica have embarked on successful landscape restoration programmes, and projects in countries as diverse as China, Rwanda and Brazil are having a dramatic impact on livelihoods and ecosystems.

3. Economic and environmental benefits are enormous. It's estimated that the restoration of 150 million hectares would pump USD $84billion a year into national and global economies.

4. Restoration can inject life and new income into threatened communities:

- Healthy, fertile landscapes provide homes for wildlife and human life, providing food, clean water and materials for shelter.

- Sustainably cultivated and farmed woodlands yield alternative fuel and raw products that can be worked or processed for trade, stimulating local industry, creating jobs, relieving poverty and funding improvements in education.

- Responsible tourism and other services can be developed as part of the rehabilitation mix.

- Opportunities to grow new crops where trees once stood that can be harvested for agriculture

- Trees in agricultural landscapes could improve soil moisture, fertility, and boost food production.

- Deforestation has accelerated global warming. Having fewer trees and less forest has left more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leaving our planet more exposed to the sun. Regenerating forests via landscape restoration would give us back some of that capacity to sequester carbon -slowing down climate change.

A restored landscape can accommodate a mosaic of different land uses, such as agriculture, protected wildlife reserves, ecological corridors, regenerated forests, managed plantations, agroforestry systems and river or lakeside plantings to protect waterways.

3 News / Reuters

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