Opportunities for Forest Restoration in Latin America and the Caribbean

Updated: Jan 22

Deforestation and forest degradation are some of the biggest environmental challenges of our times. The world has lost 178 million hectares of forest in the last three decades, with Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) being one of the affected regions.

Restoration has emerged as a tool to address ecosystem degradation, and last year the United Nations announced 2021–2030 as the “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” aiming to prevent, halt, and reverse ecosystem degradation worldwide. The UN-REDD Programme has a fundamental role to play in advocating for countries to scale up restoration in order to enhance forest carbon stocks.

A recent study showed that restoring 20 million hectares of degraded ecosystems in the LAC region could yield $23 billion US in benefits over 50 years. This reinforces the fact that forest restoration can be economically beneficial in slowing agricultural expansion, counteracting land degradation and deforestation, conserving biodiversity and maintaining the provision of ecosystem services, while generating income in rural areas and reducing carbon emissions.

Several LAC countries have made pledges to the Bonn Challenge, a global commitment to restore at least 150 million hectares of degraded forest landscapes by 2020 and to increase restoration to 200 million hectares by 2030. According to recent research, a total of $360 billion US and $830 billion US is needed to achieve commitments for 2020 and 2030, respectively. However, less than $22 billion US in green finance for forests has been committed from public and private sector sources in the past ten years.

To evaluate the conditions in LAC countries for implementing large scale restoration, a restoration readiness score was calculated based on several factors:

· the existence of Bonn Challenge commitments;

· forest reference emission levels that include restoration/enhancement of carbon stock;

· Restoration Opportunities Assessment Methodology (ROAM) analysis or equivalent;

· restoration/enhancement, included in the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and national restoration policies in place.

Other types of information were also used, such as the number of restoration projects currently being implemented and governance indicators. A small pool of countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica, was selected for further analysis of potential restoration priorities, as well as to identify technical and financing gaps for this work.

These countries have strategies and plans that support restoration activities, including national REDD+ strategies. Brazil has the highest restoration target, at 22 million hectares. In the case of Brazil, Colombia and Argentina, there is a significant mobilization of NGOs and/or civil society for restoration activities. Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Peru have applied ROAM methodology to identify priority areas for restoration at either the national (Costa Rica) or subnational level (Brazil, Colombia and Peru).

In addition to ROAM analyses, Brazil, Argentina and Colombia have also identified opportunity areas for restoration. And in Brazil, Colombia, Argentina and Peru, private sector commitments were identified for restoration activities and upscaling investments in restoration. As an example, both Althelia Climate Fund and Root Capital have invested in several restoration projects in Peru, including shade-grown coffee restoration.

Prioritizing areas that combine high potential for social and environmental benefits with high feasibility for large-scale restoration is an essential tool for helping countries achieve their commitments and for defining priorities for financing the restoration agenda. Efforts to combat climate change, conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods through forest and landscape restoration can align with benefits from other REDD+ actions. With policy support from governments, the advocacy and technical expertise of the UN-REDD Programme and the strategic engagement of the private sector, forest landscape restoration can effectively contribute to a post-COVID recovery and to improving the lives of millions of people in the LAC region who depend on healthy forests for food, water and employment.

Read the report here.


Judith Walcott,

Senior Technical Officer, UNEP-WCMC,


Raquel Agra,

Programme Officer, Climate Change and Biodiversity Programme. UNEP-WCMC,


322 views8 comments