Countries in Latin America are seizing the opportunity to restore degraded landscapes, capturing gains in agricultural production, soil and water quality, and conservation of biodiversity, while also creating sizable carbon sinks. Through Initiative 20x20, the first regional commitment to forest and landscape restoration at scale in Latin America, a group of governments pledged to restore over 23.8 million hectares (59 million acres), attracting $670 million in impact investment pledges.

The Challenge

Global demand for forestry commodities is rising rapidly, especially in emerging and developing economies. Producing fuel, fiber and timber from forests creates opportunity for economic growth but also increases pressure on natural resources. Globally, about 13 million hectares (32 million acres) are being cleared each year, and in the past decade most of the world’s forest loss has occurred in the tropics. Commercial agriculture is responsible for 71 percent of tropical deforestation worldwide, much of it illegal. Latin America has a huge opportunity to scale up restoration of degraded lands but as of August 2014 only El Salvador had made an international commitment when it pledged to restore one million hectares through the Bonn Challenge.

WRI’s Role

WRI helped launch Initiative 20x20, a country-led effort to bring 20 million hectares (49 million acres) of land in Latin America and the Caribbean into restoration by 2020, at the Lima COP20 climate conference. WRI supports Initiative 20x20 through its Global Restoration Initiative and facilitates the dialogue between governments, civil society and the private sector to build a coalition and achieve the initiative’s goals.

WRI recruited local and regional institutions such as Bioversity International, CATIE, CIAT, Fundación Agreste, ICRAF, Instituto Humboldt, IUCN and Sustainable Amazon Foundation to become partners, making this an initiative supported by Latin American institutions. WRI also made the economic case for restoration to governments and the private sector, including impact investors. The team identified large areas with restoration potential in the “Atlas of Forest and Landscape Restoration Opportunities,” highlighted examples of successful restoration, and developed a Restoration Diagnostic tool to guide action.

The Impact

Initiative 20x20 is the first-ever regional commitment to forest and landscape restoration at scale in Latin America. Over the past 12 months, Initiative 20x20 has helped to mobilize political commitments to restore 23.8 million hectares (59 million acres) of forestlands (an area nearly as large as the United Kingdom) and impact investment commitments of $670 million. The team also convened a diverse regional technical partnership to support successful implementation of these commitments.