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The Bonn Challenge : Landscape Restoration Movement
Approaches 50 Million Hectares

By Marianne de Nazareth

08 December, 2012

At last it seems like the worlds scientists and policy makers are moving in the right direction. The global movement to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020, known as the “Bonn Challenge” has happily gained further momentum at the UN Climate Talks in Doha, as Costa Rica and El Salvador each have committed up to 1 million hectares. The 50 million hectare mark, is now within reach, amid broad acknowledgement that the largest restoration initiative in history is truly underway.

So what is this Bonn Challenge? In September 2011 commitments were made to the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) by governments, business leaders and environmental experts to work towards the restoration of 150 million hectares of lost landscapes by 2020. This ambitious but attainable target represents a giant step forward in the acceptance of landscape restoration as a means of meeting global and local challenges. It has become known as the “Bonn Challenge”, and is widely acknowledged as the largest restoration initiative the world has ever seen.

The Bonn Challenge will make a significant contribution to the existing Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Target 15 (aiming for the restoration of at least 15% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2020), and the UNFCCC REDD-Plus goal (to slow, halt and reverse forest cover and carbon loss).

Achieving the Bonn Challenge – launched in September 2011 in Bonn Germany by the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration (GPFLR) – would deliver a host of major benefits to humanity and the planet, such as improving food security, protecting biodiversity and benefiting people’s livelihoods. Costa Rica and El Salvador are the latest in joining USA, Rwanda and the Brazilian Mata Atlantica Restoration Pact in making pledges. Reaching the Bonn Challenge target will depend on the success of hundreds of landscape restoration projects around the world.

“Governments and people are calling for achievable solutions to the major threats we face today, including climate change. The Bonn Challenge is a nature-based solution,which is why it is capturing the world’s attention,” explains Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General of IUCN, which coordinates the GPFLR. “While the progress so far has been wonderful, it is only through continued pledges like the ones by El Salvador and Costa Rica that we can reach our global target.”

With formal pledges now over 20 million hectares, a pre-pledge declaration of intent from India of 10 million, and another 20 million in the pipeline from the Meso American Alliance of Peoples and Forests, a staggering 50 million hectares of commitments is now within reach. Forest and landscape restoration (FLR) turns barren or degraded areas of land into healthy, fertile, working landscapes that can meet the needs of people and the natural environment, sustainably.

• Repairing ruined landscapes restores their ability to support people, wildlife and livelihoods, put back some of the world’s capacity to process greenhouse gases and pump an estimated US$ 84 billion (net) into the global economy

“Restoring 150 million hectares over the next 10 years could potentially close the ‘emissions gap’ by 11-17% and inject more than US$ 80 billion per year into local and national economies,” according to Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of Nature-Based Solutions, IUCN. The emission reductions gap is the estimated shortfall in climate mitigation action, once all current greenhouse gas reduction efforts and commitments are taken into account, required to avoid global temperature increases exceeding 2oC.

“Our commitment to restoring one million hectares - half the country's territory - is a serious and desperate response to a changing climate that earned El Salvador the first and fourth places in Germanwatch´s Global Climate Risk Index in 2009 and 2011, respectively,” says Herman Rosa Chavez, Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources for El Salvador. “With adequate support, landscape restoration at this scale will also allow us to make an important contribution to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, greatly enhancing our carbon sinks, improving livelihoods, ecosystem services and disaster resilience. Landscape restoration may be seen as a mitigation strategy, but for El Salvador it is an urgent and essential element for adaptation and reducing escalating climate related losses and damages.”

“As Ambassador for the Plant a Pledge Campaign and Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation I am delighted with the pledges announced by El Salvador and Costa Rica today, which take us to 20 million hectares, and bring 50 million within reach. We look forward to other commitments in the pipeline from India and the Meso-American Alliance of Peoples and Forests being formalised with the GPFLR soon.” says Bianca Jagger, Ambassador of the Plant a Pledge Campaign, and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.

“Environmental destruction is a serious human rights issue and the Bonn Challenge has never been more relevant. Restoration of degraded and deforested lands is not simply about planting trees. People and communities are at the heart of the restoration effort, which transforms barren or degraded areas of land into healthy, fertile working landscapes.”
“The public should continue to appeal to governments, businesses, landowners and communities to contribute to the Bonn Challenge target. We have a unique opportunity to renew our degraded and deforested landscapes now. Our fate and the fate of future generations depend on it."

Earlier this year, during the UN Sustainable Development “Rio +20” talks in Rio de Janeiro, more than one million people voted the Bonn Challenge as the second most important issue upon which heads of state should act. To harness this public interest, Airbus and IUCN launched the Plant a Pledge campaign, which through an online petition empowers all people to call on governments, landowners and communities to contribute land to the Bonn Challenge. This partnership has provided a platform that has driven popular involvement in the recent successes of the Bonn Challenge and shows leadership in working together to activate practical solutions.

“I urge everyone to support our campaign and sign our petition at www.plantapledge.com ,” says Jagger.

( The writer is an independent media professional and adjunct faculty in St Joseph’s PG College, Bangalore)




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