Geneva/Nairobi, 4 September 2014 - Efforts to combat climate change and improve livelihoods by restoring forest lands continue to build momentum. A new collaboration is being launched between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to restore at least 150 million hectares of forest landscapes by 2020, leading up to the Secretary-General's Climate Summit on 23 September 2014.
The new collaboration will bring together two major ongoing global initiatives to restore degraded landscapes worldwide - the UN Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (the UN-REDD Programme) and its 55 partner countries, and the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration .
Restoring 150 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes, an area roughly the size of Alaska or almost half the size of India, would sequester an estimated 1 gigatonne of carbon dioxide equivalent from the atmosphere every year, reducing the current emissions gap by 11-17 per cent.
The new collaboration between UNEP and IUCN aims to contribute to the implementation of the Bonn Challenge, , a global commitment made in September 2011 to restore at least 150 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes by 2020, which would generate an estimated US$85 billion per year in ecosystem services to benefit the rural poor in developing countries.
With policy support from governments, forest landscape restoration is an attractive proposition to harness private sector investments. Restoring degraded lands benefits biodiversity and generates ecosystem services such as water purification, wood for energy, pollination for agriculture, and tourism enterprise opportunities.
The agreement includes a Helpdesk function for assessments of restoration opportunities, and a global mapping database for carbon and non-carbon benefits of restoration efforts. It will also include efforts to align forest restoration with benefits under the global climate change mitigation initiative REDD+, which focuses on developing countries.
"This collaboration will add new momentum to a mission of great significance to UNEP, by strengthening a critical dimension of REDD+, which aims to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. The economic and environmental importance of forests means that we cannot just prevent their destruction, we must also unite efforts to recover this life-supporting resource," said Mette L. Wilkie, Director of Environmental Policy Implementation at UNEP.
To date, up to 20 million hectares of restoration commitments to the Bonn Challenge have been pledged by 5 countries and alliances. Additional pledges are expected during the Secretary-General's Climate Summit, and the collaboration between IUCN and UNEP will encourage more countries to make pledges towards the 150 million hectare target.
Stewart Maginnis, Global Director of Nature-Based Solutions at IUCN said, "Restoring degraded lands into healthy and productive landscapes is vital for meeting international obligations on climate change, biodiversity, and desertification. The collaboration between UNEP and IUCN will help to build more expertise in countries around the world, and to restore more landscapes for the benefit of local communities, national economies and the global climate."
The collaboration will eventually benefit all 55 partner countries which UNEP is working with, through the UN-REDD Programme; although restoration is a higher priority for some countries than for others. National efforts will initially focus on a few pilot projects including countries such as Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Indonesia. In Cote d'Ivoire, for example, recent conflict and civil war has destroyed most of the current forest landscapes, and the country is in need of a massive investment for landscape restoration, as described in its National Programme under the UN-REDD Programme.
"We look forward to this combined international support for our national efforts", said Pak Heru Prasetyo, Head of Indonesia's REDD+ Agency speaking about Indonesia's degraded forest landscapes. "Indonesia will do its share to restore our natural ecosystems, and thus rebuild lost natural capital for our country."
The UN-REDDD Programme currently works across 55 partner countries and is a joint effort by three United Nations agencies: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The UN-REDD Programme aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of forests in developing countries. Through this agreement, UNEP and IUCN will ensure that forest restoration expertise can be made available to all UN-REDD partner countries who need it. More information is available at: www.un-redd.org
IUCN is the world's oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO members in some 160 countries. IUCN's mission is to "influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable." The IUCN Global Forest and Climate Change Programme has more than 10 years of experience in over 25 countries on forest finance, governance, and implementation issues, which provides a foundation for REDD+ activities.
The Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, coordinated by IUCN, is a proactive network that unites governments, organizations, communities and individuals with a common goal. The collaboration was initiated with the purpose of catalyzing and reinforcing a network of diverse examples of restoration of forests and degraded lands that deliver benefits to local communities and to nature, and fulfil international commitments on forests. More information is available at: www.forestlandscaperestoration.org
Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.