At the UN climate change conference (COP20) in Lima, Norway announced NOK 76 million for a new project to support the restoration of forests and landscapes in the tropics. “A very important climate measure for the future,” says Minister of Climate and the Environment, Tine Sundtoft.
“I am very pleased to announce this new project. The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows that we cannot achieve climate targets just by reducing emissions. We also need to increase the global absorption of greenhouse gases and actively capture carbon from the atmosphere. Restoring forests is a climate measure that does just this,” says Minister of Climate and the Environment, Tine Sundtoft.
Trees sequester carbon. For this reason, through Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative, Norway has worked since 2008 to stop the deforestation of rainforests, which are one of the world's largest carbon depositories.
In addition to leaving forests as they are, restoring damaged forests and landscapes is becoming increasingly important. Such areas may either be restored, for example by allowing the forest to grow back, or they may be transformed into agricultural land to increase food production.
Important both for the climate and development
Restoration of forests is not only about allowing forests to grow back to increase the absorption and storage of greenhouse gases. It could also be about planting timber as a source of local industrial development.
“In DR Congo, for example, this could be important. By planting forests for the production of timber and charcoal, one can reduce pressure on the remaining natural forests and prevent deforestation. This could also create jobs and develop local industry,” Sundtoft says.
Ethiopia is another example. Here, large forest areas have disappeared over the last decades. This is currently causing major problems through the erosion of topsoil that is washed away by rivers. Ethiopia therefore wants to restore the forests in order to retain the soil. At the same time, authorities are working to increase food production and boost economic development for a growing population.
“The World needs more efficient agriculture”
Sundtoft emphasizes that restoration will be important in the way developing countries plan land use.
“The world faces a growing global population and an increased need for food and resources. At the same time, the climate challenges are becoming increasingly acute. The world cannot afford to allow degraded and damaged areas to remain unused,” Sundtoft says.
Brazil, Indonesia and Ethiopia among partner countries.
Through the project, the partner countries will initially investigate where it may be beneficial to restore forests, and demonstrate which consequences this will have for local communities, food production, greenhouse gas emissions and natural diversity. The project will primarily work with the authorities in Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Colombia, Ethiopia and Rwanda.
Partnerships will be set up with large and internationally renowned environmental organizations such as The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and World Resources Institute (WRI).
• Forests are carbon depositories: Growing forests absorb and bind CO2, which is stored in the trees, leaves, roots and soil. When the forest is replaced with something else, such as a road or a field, the greenhouse gases are released.
• In order to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and reduce global warming, it is therefore important to stop deforestation and restore degraded forests.
• Through the UN declaration and Bonn Challenge, a number of countries have already pledged more than 50 million hectares of restored forest by 2030.
• There are areas of more than two thousand square kilometres that are poorly exploited. This is an area twice the size of China.
• In parts of these areas it is possible to implement large scale forest restoration, expand agriculture and agroforestry, or plant new forest.