Global reforestation drive grows fast as governments grasp benefits

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The world’s largest reforestation push, now almost a decade old, has beaten its 2020 target, as countries use their pledges to tackle national priorities including job creation, food security and climate change, researchers said on Wednesday.

The Bonn Challenge – launched in 2011 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Germany – aims for 150 million hectares (371 million acres) of degraded forest land to be under restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

Already, 61 nations, eight states in Brazil, Mexico and Pakistan, and five environmental groups have made nonbinding commitments to restore more than 210 million hectares, about six times the size of Germany, according to an IUCN progress report.

Stewart Maginnis, global director of IUCN’s Nature-based Solutions Group, said the challenge had proved successful because it was about “problem-solving,” not just tree-planting.

“Part of the secret sauce is that it has got a relevance to other parts of the economy and other sectors at national level,” Swiss-based Maginnis told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

For every $1 spent on forest restoration, at least $9 of economic benefits are generated, said the report, estimating that nearly $76 trillion could be gained each year from addressing land degradation.

In 2019, tropical rainforests – whose preservation is considered crucial to curbing climate change – disappeared at a rate of one football pitch every six seconds, according to data from monitoring service Global Forest Watch.

Environmentalists say conserving existing forests and restoring damaged ones reduces the risk of flooding, stores more planet-warming carbon and protects biodiversity.

Worldwide, there are about 5.5 billion hectares of forest.

Countries that have pushed forward with their Bonn pledges recognize that natural solutions like forest restoration are key to meeting national policy goals such as cutting carbon emissions, and boosting land productivity and food security, said Maginnis.

Earlier this year, the World Economic Forum – which dedicated its 2020 gathering in Davos, Switzerland, to climate change and sustainability – launched a platform to drive the planting of one trillion trees worldwide.

It is backed by a host of public figures, including President Donald Trump, a long-time climate change sceptic.”

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