The draft Rio+20 Declaration presented to world leaders today includes four paragraphs [193-196] on forests that stress the importance of sustainable forest management in meeting "many of the most pressing sustainable development challenges." An unwieldy paragraph 61 also recognizes that "urgent action" is needed on "promoting conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystems, regeneration of natural resources, and the promotion of sustained, inclusive and equitable global growth." (Read The Guardian's copy of the document).

Bonn Challenge

While the outcomes of the official conference process are still murky, we can take heart in the relatively simple results of the Rio+20 Dialogues' online voting phase during which registered Internet users were asked to vote for their favorite forest recommendation. According to the organizers, the top recommendation is to "Restore 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded lands by 2020" -- a goal set in Bonn, Germany, last year that is picking up steam.

IUCN and Airbus last week launched a campaign called "Plant a Pledge" to mobilize support for landscape restoration ahead of the next climate change negotiations in Qatar in November. (We've embedded the campaign video below.) The United States and other partners have already begun announcing pledges to meet the Bonn Challenge.

A forest "knowledge bank"

The restoration of deforested and degraded lands presents a rare opportunity to increase food security and incomes, strengthen the resilience of communities and help contribute to greenhouse gas mitigation while taking pressure off remaining forests. According to a global mapping exercise supported by PROFOR, the Global Partnership on Forest Landscape Restoration and other partners, more than 1 billion hectares of land are suitable for restoration. The question is how to increase the adoption of systems and techniques that are proven to work in specific contexts, without wasting time and resources on the wrong schemes. There is a lot to be learned from successful experiences and a tremendous amount of local and global learning to be shared.

That is where timely, evidence-based forest policy analysis, guidance and toolkits could make a difference. The United Kingdom, one of PROFOR's major donors, announced on June 20, 2012 that it would continue to invest heavily in the uptake of forestry knowledge that could ultimately help reduce deforestation and restore natural resources for the "tens of millions of people who rely on forests to survive."

Plant a Pledge video