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A global overview of countries’ restoration commitments under the Rio Conventions and other pledges

Abstract

The multiple benefits of restoration, from local to global scales, are reflected in the array of global and regional goals for restoration.
The year 2021 will see the kick-off of the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration — a culmination of growing global attention, agreements and ambitions for restoration and improved land management. Measures that help to restore land and improve its management can offer multiple benefits to society simultaneously — contributing to food and water security, and helping to address biodiversity loss and mitigate and adapt to climate change. This diversity of benefits has resulted in restoration commitments submitted by countries across international conventions on climate, biodiversity and desertification and voluntary initiatives, such as the Bonn Challenge.

Quantitative commitments on restoration under the Rio Conventions and the Bonn Challenge have been submitted by 115 countries. The total global ambitions on restoration can be aggregated from the array of commitments countries have made under different conventions and goals. In total, 115 countries have put forward quantitative, area-based commitments to at least one of the three Rio Conventions (the CBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC) or to the Bonn Challenge. Many countries have provided commitments to more than one of these, many of which differing in size or type of restoration measures. Hence, the need to bring them together to take stock of the total global commitments.

The total of all restoration commitments by countries is close to 1 billion hectares, almost half of which are in Sub-Saharan Africa. The middle estimate in this policy brief totals close to 1 billion hectares (estimate range 765–1 billion hectares under various assumptions). This is significant, compared to current land use (4.7 billion ha cropland and grazing land), projections of land-use change (0.5 billion ha are expected to be converted into agriculture between 2010 and 2050), and estimates of land degradation (0.9 to 1.1 billion ha showing declining trends in productivity). Almost half of the restoration commitments are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, followed by Central and South America, China and South Asia. Relatively few commitments have been made by countries in North America, Europe, Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa. The commitments appear roughly balanced between planned measures that focus on restoration and protection of natural areas, and on management and rehabilitation of agricultural and forestry areas.

Efforts are required to improve the alignment, measurability and geographic specificity of commitments
National plans, in general, do not appear to be aligned between conventions when it comes to quantitative restoration commitments. Improvement, here, could enhance planning and implementation. Also, many countries have additional qualitative commitments for restoration that lack specificity and are difficult to measure and, thus, to evaluate or monitor. Commitments need to be measurable, geographically specific and transparent to create realistic targets and to help monitor progress, as well as provide transparency to land users. Differences in reporting styles also pose a challenge for comparing restoration commitments and progress on restoration within and between countries and conventions.

Opportunities to move from commitments to implementation
At the onset of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in 2021, the plans and commitments are there, but how and to what extent these national plans and commitments will be implemented over the coming decade remains to be seen. The country commitments, and the overview presented here, could be used as a benchmark for evaluating implementation and reporting progress against existing commitments. There are upcoming opportunities to develop better alignment between restoration commitments under the different conventions and the Bonn Challenge, including new national plan cycles in, for instance, the CBD or UNFCCC, as well as the new restoration monitoring framework led by the FAO.