The role of land and forest in accelerating climate action is recognized in the Paris Agreement, including the importance of Results-Based Payments for advancing REDD+ implementation. However, while most Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) reflect some sort of forest and land-based actions, REDD+ commitments in the form of land-based targets are mostly absent in spite of global efforts to scale up towards REDD+ implementation from multilateral initiatives like the UN-REDD Programme.
Achieving the objectives of the Paris Agreement at the pace required will not possible without nature-based solutions, such as REDD+ and forest landscape restoration (FLR). As a policy instrument to mobilize international financial support to incentivize emissions reductions from deforestation and forest degradation, REDD+ brings great potential to leverage the potential of nature-based solutions as demonstrated by countries in the development and implementation of their national REDD+ strategies or action plans. Similarly, FLR offers untapped mitigation and adaptation potential, as it can enable sustained reductions in net emissions across forest landscapes, while simultaneously boosting thriving low-carbon and climate resilient ecosystems, societies and economies.
In mobilizing the potential of FLR, the Bonn Challenge offers an excellent opportunity fully unlocking the mitigation potential of forests and informing more ambitious NDCs. To date, 56 national and subnational governments, organizations and others have made restoration pledges aligned with the FLR approach, totalling more than 168 million hectares.
To enhance climate action, an in-depth analysis conducted by IUCN and Climate Focus found that 83 percent of NDCs contain references to ongoing or planned efforts in the forest sector, including FLR. Yet, only 77 percent of NDCs include forest-related targets: 31 percent of those include quantifiable mitigation targets corresponding to the forest sector, and 5 percent include adaptation quantifiable targets.
When considering NDCs with measurable forest mitigation commitments, only 9 percent are targets expressed in tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. What is more, only 8 percent of all NDCs explicitly refer to REDD+ implementation, often under conditional commitments contingent to international support. For example, Brazil’s NDC reiterates the need for increased international support for actions that require large-scale transformations in the forest sector, particularly concerning the permanence of results-based REDD+ actions and ambitious efforts for forest restoration.
When contrasting NDCs with the Bonn Challenge, the significant role that this global initiative can play in leveraging the mitigation and resilience potential of nature-based solutions such as FLR is evident. FLR activities, such as planted forests and woodlots, silviculture and agroforestry, are the most prominent nature-based mitigation actions expressed by countries, yet only about a third of those commitments are expressed in some form of quantifiable targets, and none mention whether those are aligned with other international commitments like the achievement of Aichi Targets, the LDN, or the Bonn Challenge, among others.
While all 46 Bonn Challenge jurisdictions that submitted NDCs refer to activities aligned with FLR, only 41 express commitments and only about half of those Bonn Challenge countries express quantifiable commitments. Of those Bonn Challenge countries with quantifiable FLR targets, 6 expressed them in tons of CO² equivalent – the first explicit reference to the Bonn Challenge’s mitigation potential under the Paris Agreement.
When contrasting Bonn Challenge pledges with NDC targets, in most cases, countries often express lower commitments than those made under the Bonn Challenge. When considering NDC targets expressed in hectares, 21 NDCs refer to a potential for restoring around 56.7 million hectares through a broad range of interventions, compared to the 168 million hectares of Bonn Challenge pledges – highlighting a significant missed opportunity for more ambitious NDCs.
Such findings suggest that some roadblocks remain for countries in regards to technical challenges related to more reliable and accurate estimation of the mitigation potential of the forest and land sector, and MRV of such mitigation efforts. Furthermore, successfully achieving low-carbon and climate resilient integrated forest landscapes urgently requires ambitious, coherent and cost-effective policies across sectors interacting in such landscapes.
The findings highlight the opportunities for effectively and coherently aligning international commitments and national landscape policies through FLR approaches and moreover, underline the relevance of programmes such as the UN-REDD Programme that is celebrating its 10-year anniversary to continue to promote policy integration and mobilize international technical and financial support to leverage more ambitious climate action under the Paris Agreement.
Further analyzing and understanding the technical, financial and governance opportunities and challenges that countries face will be crucial for informing new or revised ambitious NDCs, as well as informing the support role that global initiatives like the Bonn Challenge or the UN-REDD Programme need to play going forth.
Maria Garcia Espinosa is the Senior Policy Officer (Climate Change) at IUCN
Carole Saint-Laurent is the Deputy Director of Global Forest and Climate Change Programme at IUCN