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In recent years, more than 40 percent (650 million hectares) of forests in Latin America and the Caribbean have been completely deforested or degraded. Latin America and the Caribbean contain some of the most ecologically valuable forest ecosystems in the world, but in recent history 20% of forest lands (nearly 350 million hectares) have been completely deforested and a further 20% (300 million hectares) badly degraded. The drivers of this change include large-scale and small-scale agricultural, infrastructure, mining. As a result, the bulk of the emissions in the Latin American region are generated not from energy but from land use, land use change, and forestry. Of the 4.7 GT emitted by Latin American and Caribbean countries in 2010, about 67 percent were from land use and loss of forests.

Initiative 20x20 is a country-led effort seeking to change the dynamics of land degradation in Latin America and the Caribbean by bringing 20 million hectares of land into restoration by 2020, with US$2.08 billion of private investment. Seventeen Latin American and Caribbean countries and three regional programs have committed to begin restoring 53.2 million hectares (or about 205,400 square miles, an area roughly the size of France) of degraded land by 2020.

The initiative will support reforestation (natural and assisted), conservation of forests as well as avoided deforestation as elements of an integral restoration process. Cognizant of the various degrees of land degradation in the region, the initiative will also support efforts to recover land functionality (soil conservation and recovery; carbon storage; water retention and stable hydrologies; biodiversity conservation and recovery) through agroforestry, silvopastures, and other sustainable land use schemes.

The initiative is supported by more than 40 technical organizations and institutions and an acting secretariat within the World Resources Institute (WRI).


“As the world prepares to deliver a binding climate agreement in Paris by 2015, restoration will be absolutely essential for countries to hit their emissions targets, while also delivering huge benefits for the rural poor. Through their leadership in Initiative 20x20, these countries will have a tremendous head start,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, President and CEO, WRI.

“CIAT has understood for a long time the pivotal linkage between agriculture and climate change. We are committed to support initiative 20x20 as a cost effective approach to reduce GHG emissions while promoting improved soil quality, nutrient retention and agricultural yields,” indicated Ruben Echevarria, Director General, CIAT.

“Initiative 20x20 can be an important contribution to the global restoration goals outlined under the Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests,” added Grethel Aguilar, IUCN coordinator in Central America,” added Grethel Aguilar, IUCN coordinator in Central America.

“The mosaic approach in Initiative 20x20 or what we call ‘climate smart territories’ will allow countries to target improvements in rural incomes and food security as well as to protect natural forests and grasslands so critical to our sustainable future,” said Jose Joaquin Campos, Director General, CATIE.

“Land restoration in the region is an essential element to promote equity, poverty reduction, alternatives for development in poor rural areas as well as a mechanism to achieve a low carbon, more resilient future,” said Minister of Environment Gabriel Vallejo, Colombia

“Althelia is deploying capital in support of a portfolio of projects in the region to improve agricultural practices, restore degraded lands, and reduce pressure on natural ecosystems, with concrete results in emissions reductions, zero-net deforestation commodities, biodiversity, and livelihoods," said Christian del Valle, CEO, Althelia Climate.

3 Activities of Initiative 20x20

  • Inspire national commitments to restoration by engaging in a robust dialogue with Ministers of Agriculture and Environment in the region;

  • Make the economic case by assessing the societal benefits from restoration and avoided deforestation; and

  • Establish a financial mechanism that allows private sector impact investors to fund restoration projects

Key Facts

  • 49% of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2012 resulted from forestry, land-use change, and agriculture.

  • Latin America and the Caribbean account for about half of the world’s remaining tropical and southern temperate forests.

  • Agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean expanded onto an additional 36 million hectares since 2000. This expansion came at the expense of forests and natural landscapes.

  • Land-use activities like agriculture, animal husbandry, and forestry contribute 5 percent of the region’s GDP and about 14 percent of its employment.

  • Land restoration can increase food productivity and security for an estimated 49 million under-nourished in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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