African countries make reforestation a priority at COP21

A coalition of African countries launched an ambitious initiative on Sunday at the UN climate conference in Paris to restore 100 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2030. So far 10 countries have joined.

The goal of the African Restoration Initiative (AFR100) is to nurture the regrowth of forests on degraded and deforested land and transform them into a powerful carbon sink that would both absorb the dangerous greenhouse gas and provide a livelihood for the rural poor, reports AFP.

Unveiled during the Global Landscapes Forum at the UN climate talks currently underway in Paris, the initiative is a key ingredient of the global movement to adapt to and mitigate climate change, according to World Resources Institute (WRI), one of the initiative’s backers.

So far 10 African countries have joined AFR100 and together have committed at least 31.7 million hectares of land for forest landscape restoration: the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Togo and Uganda.

The initiative also has nine financial partners and 10 technical support backers, led by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, Germany’s ministry for economic cooperation and development and WRI.

AFR100 comes with considerable financial pledges. The World Bank, for example, is earmarking more than USD 1 billion in development finance. Other partners from around the world have made over USD 540 million in private sector impact investment to support the reforestation activities.

“The scale of these new restoration commitments is unprecedented,” said Wanjira Mathai, chair of the African Green Belt Movement and daughter of the movement’s founder, Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai.

“I have seen restoration in communities both large and small across Africa, but the promise of a continent-wide movement is truly inspiring. Restoring landscapes will empower and enrich rural communities while providing downstream benefits to those in cities. Everybody wins.”

According to WRI analysis, AFR100 has the potential to cumulatively reduce emissions by 1.2 Gt CO2eq over the next 10 years, the equivalent of 36 per cent of Africa’s annual emissions and 0.25 per cent of global emissions.

“Restoration is really Africa’s gift to the world,” said Dr. Andrew Steer, president and CEO, World Resources Institute.

Photo credit: COP PARIS

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