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Four countries pledge to restore 30 million hectares of degraded lands at UN Summit

In 2011, Germany and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature launched the Bonn Challenge, which pledged to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands by 2020. Several countries have already made commitments—including the U.S.—but this week at the UN Climate Summit four more jumped on board.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo committed to restoring 8 million hectares, Uganda committed to 2.5 million hectares, and Guatemala committed to restoring 1.2 million hectares. But the largest commitment in the group came from Ethiopia, which pledged to restore forests on 22 million hectares or about 22 percent of its land mass. In total this week’s pledges add up to 33.7 million hectares, an area larger than Taiwan.

“Today’s pledges by countries in Africa and Latin America to combat deforestation and more than double restoration targets will bring significant climate benefits,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner. “At the same time, such inspiring initiatives will contribute significantly to poverty reduction, economic development and food security across countries and regions.”

Burned savanna in Guatemala. The country committed to restoring 1.2 million hectares. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Burned savanna in Guatemala. The country committed to restoring 1.2 million hectares. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.

Moreover, it was announced at the summit that the Bonn Challenge would be extended out to 2030 with a new goal of restoring 350 million hectares by that time or an area larger than India.

“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,” said Bianca Jagger, IUCN Ambassador for the Bonn Challenge.

In total the Bonn Challenge has commitments equalling about 55 million hectares of land now, or just over a third of a way to the goal.

This weeks UN Summit was notable for a number of ambitious pledges on forests, including a partnership between Peru, Germany, and Norway to stem deforestation in the Amazonian nation; an agreement between Norway and Liberia to save forests in the latter; and a commitment to halve deforestation worldwide by 2020 and end it altogether by 2030.

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