As trees grow they remove carbon from the atmosphere. New forests can therefore play an important role in meeting the goal of keeping Earth’s temperature to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels.
Governments and wider civil society are increasingly recognising these benefits. One important step was the 2011 launch of the Bonn Challenge to restore 350m hectares of forest by 2030. This is a major undertaking – the area is a little larger than the size of India.
Spurred by the necessities of drastically cutting emissions and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to meet climate targets, many countries, including Brazil, India and China, have committed large areas to forest restoration. Adding up the Bonn Challenge and other national pledges from 43 countries across the tropics and sub-tropics – where trees grow fast – reveals that these governments have pledged to restore 292m hectares of degraded lands.
This very welcome news is, unfortunately, not all that is seems. Our new analysis, published in Nature, shows that implementing the current pledges under the Bonn Challenge will mean the 1.5℃ climate goal is still missed.