New commitments build on Initiative 20x20, launched at COP 20 in Lima to restore forests and improve agricultural productivity of degraded land in Latin America and the Caribbean

PARIS (December 5, 2015)—Today, countries, states, and financial and civil society institutions have announced new restoration pledges for Latin American and Caribbean through Initiative 20x20, a country-led effort to bring degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2020. The new commitments bring the total area to be restored to 27.7 million hectares (or about 95,700 square miles, an area roughly the size of the United Kingdom), and are supported by new and existing financing of US$730 million from impact investors and other financial partners.

Restoration is a key strategy for mitigating and adapting to climate change, and new Initiative 20x20 pledges will help countries deliver on their commitments to reduce emissions under the Paris climate deal, while simultaneously increasing resilience to the effects of climate change. Initiative 20x20 is supported by the World Resources Institute (WRI), International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Bioversity International, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), the Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV), Natural Capital Project (NatCap), the Alexander von Humboldt Institute in Colombia, Fundación Agreste in Argentina, and Fundo Brasileiro para a Biodiversidade (Funbio) and Fundação Amazonas Sustentável in Brazil.

The new commitments build on pledges by eight countries, two regional initiatives and five impact investors announced at the launch of Initiative 20x20 at COP20 in Lima, Peru last year, which totaled more than 18 million hectares and $365 million. Today, Initiative 20x20 has an additional 9.08 million hectares of written restoration pledges from:

  1. State of Mato Grosso (Brazil): 2.9 million hectares
  2. Nicaragua: 2.8 million hectares
  3. Honduras: 1 million hectares
  4. Argentina: 1 million hectares
  5. State of São Paulo (Brazil): 300,000 hectares
  6. State of Espirito Santo (Brazil): 80,000 hectares
  7. Costa Rica: 1 million hectares (increase from 50,000 hectares in 2014)
  8. Chile: 500,000 hectares (increase from 100,000 hectares in 2014)
  9. American Bird Conservancy (regional program): 100,000 hectares

Ambitions announced through Initiative 20x20 also support the Bonn Challenge, a global commitment to bring 150 million hectares of land into restoration by 2020 adopted in Germany in 2011, and the New York Declaration on Forests that extends that challenge to 350 million hectares by 2030.

“Land restoration is a powerful approach to simultaneously address agricultural productivity, conservation of the natural capital and CO2 emissions,” said Minister of Agriculture of Costa Rica, Luis Felipe Arauz.

Impact investors, and bilateral and multilateral funders will support the restoration activities of Initiative 20x20 through financing and innovative finance mechanisms. So far, Initiative 20x20 partners have set forth an ambition totaling $730 million US dollars, up from pledges totaling $365 million at COP20 in Lima. The financial mechanisms leveraged include a risk management instrument for investments in land restoration implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank through Global Environmental Facility (GEF) funding.

“Restoration in Latin America is a smart investment across all the areas where we seek returns: financial, social, and environmental," said Juan Carlos González-Aybar, Director for Latin America, Althelia Ecosphere. “This is why we have pledged our support, and why so many other groups are joining.”

Land-use change, forestry and agriculture account for roughly one half of GHG emissions from Latin America and the Caribbean, in contrast to highly industrialized and less forested areas where emissions are typically dominated by the energy sector and industrial emissions. Over 200 million hectares of land are available for restoration in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to WRI and IUCN analysis.

“Sequestering carbon through landscape restoration is essential to reach a net zero carbon footprint in Latin America and represents a key contribution toward maintaining the two degrees threshold sought by the Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC in Paris,” said Walter Vergara, Senior Fellow, WRI.

Through Initiative 20x20, countries and investors will work to restore forests on cleared land and improve the productivity of “mosaic landscapes” through better use of trees in agriculture (agroforestry) and livestock production (silvopasture). This restoration is expected to provide extensive economic, social, and environmental benefits through improved local livelihoods, ecosystem services such as erosion prevention and water security, as well as carbon storage.

“Latin America and the Caribbean can make a significant contribution to the global climate deal through restoration,” indicated José Joaquín Campos, Director General, CATIE. “But it is also in our own interest. As we see climate change stress our agriculture, increase the risk of natural disasters, and alter natural cycles, restoration will increase our resilience and keep us safer and more prosperous through the next decades and century.”

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Note: The total number of hectares to be restored under Initiative 20x20 was updated from 24.8 to 27.7 after an additional announcement by Mato Grosso.