Tuesday, 1 December marked a day of Forest Focus as part of the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), with forest and land use events taking place across the COP21 programme. Speakers at the LPAA’s high-level press event included His Royal Highness Prince Charles, whose message that “Restoration of forests and forest landscapes should not be an afterthought,” resonated widely among participants and delegations
Also included in the LPAA programme were significant commitments made by countries to support measurable emissions reductions, reduce deforestation and engage more strongly with communities and indigenous people in the REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) process. Peru’s Minister of the Environment Manuel Pulgar-Vidal reiterated that these partnerships and cooperation between countries, between organisations and between investment and sustainable forest management are key to the success of forest action.
Forest landscape restoration was also a theme of IUCN’s COP21 Forest Day activities in the IUCN Pavilion, kicking off with discussion of The Restoration Initiative (TRI), a joint programme to restore and maintain degraded and deforested landscapes at scale by IUCN, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) for consideration by the Global Environment (GEF) Council. Representatives from the three agencies and the GEF Secretariat came together to launch their collaboration, with a shared focus on the complementary strengths and contributions they bring to TRI.
Julia Wolf (Senior Natural Resources Officer, Climate Change, FAO), emphasised the importance of country-level consultation in establishing key baselines for effective monitoring and responsiveness during the initiative. Ian Gray (Senior Environmental Specialist, GEF) explained how GEF’s funding mechanisms are built on existing government plans, helping put the “right social funding in the right place.” Helping countries overcome barriers to investments and start to build commitments to restoration under the Rio conventions and Aichi targets on biodioversity, such as through the Bonn Challenge, is exactly what TRI hopes to achieve.
The focus on in-country implementation continued as IUCN hosted a panel of experts to discuss large-scale restoration ambition. Jean Muneng (Forest Landscape Restoration Focal Point for Democratic Republic of the Congo) highlighted the country’s major deforestation and degradation occurring over the past few decades and reiterated its 8 million hectare commitment to the Bonn Challenge goal. Shira Yoffe (Senior Policy Advisor, US Forest Service) explained how on-the-ground initiatives were making a difference in the United States.
Jorge Rescala Pérez (General Director of Mexico’s National Forestry Commission, CONFOR) presented the country’s progress on its National REDD+ Strategy, to be released in April 2016. He elaborated on the strategy’s objectives of reducing emissions and enhancing forest carbon stocks while still ensuring social and environmental safeguards and sustainable rural development. Pérez said that a critical aspect is collaboration with community landowners over the five-year consultation process that fed into the strategy.
The evening closed with an IUCN reception in appreciation of all current and prospective contributors to the Bonn Challenge, members of the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration, and other restoration partners. Keynote speeches by Emmanuel Niyonkuru (Minister of Water, Environment, Spatial Planning and Urban Development, Burundi) and Bianca Jagger (Founder, President and Chief Executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation and IUCN Bonn Challenge Ambassador) highlighted the importance of achieving the Bonn Challenge goal of restoring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
To date, 13 countries and a regional alliance have pledged almost 60 million hectares to the Bonn Challenge. Further announcements expected at COP21 represent a leap towards meeting this goal, and IUCN and its partners are turning the focus toward supporting countries with their implementation processes. As Tim Christophersen (Senior Programme Officer, Forests and Climate Change, UNEP) described in the TRI session, we are now transitioning from “bringing the tools to make the case for restoration to bringing the tools to make restoration work.” Now is the time to get to work.