Restoring Latin America: What happened at the 2021 Initiative 20x20 Annual Partners Meeting?

June 21, 2021

by Luciana Gallardo Lomeli | Initiative 20x20 Secretariat

Restoring Latin America: What happened at the 2021 Initiative 20x20 Annual Partners Meeting?

Initiative 20x20 partners highlighted the urgent need to scale up land restoration and strengthen the partnership to achieve the region’s restoration goals.

Initiative 20x20 partners came together for a three-day, virtual annual meeting to address the restoration agenda in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). From May 19 to May 21, more than 500 people – including 8 government ministers, technical partners and impact investors –  connected to highlight the urgent need to step up the platform’s work on restoring degraded landscapes and protecting healthy ecosystems.

After six years of growth, Initiative 20x20 has gathered pledges far beyond its original goal of bringing 20 million hectares into the process of restoration by 2020. It has connected with over 125 partners and shown evidence of the impact that restoration is having across Latin America and the Caribbean. Yet there is wide recognition that there is still much to do.  With strong support from IKI, and under a new mandate issued at the UNFCCC COP25 in Madrid, the initiative is now entering a new stage.  Through its partners, Initiative 20x20 is now working to protect and begin to restore 50 million hectares of forests, farms, pasture, and other landscapes across the region. It is also targeting the inclusion of the restoration of 30 million hectares in countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Initiative 20x20 platform has helped facilitate this transition by helping partners exchange ideas, enabling technical support and promoting leadership on restoration. So far, private sector partners and government programs have reported that they have protected and begun to restore close to 22.6 million hectares of land across 135 projects since 2014. Two-thirds of the total are in new conversation areas, and one-third is in land restoration projects. The annual meeting showed that achieving government commitments by 2030, the final year of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, will require reeling in the expertise and ambition of those currently engaged partners, as well as new stakeholders.

What were the key takeaways from the Annual Meeting?

Political Leadership

Political leadership is needed to deliver on national restoration commitments and bring them into the center of the political arena. As land degradation threatens the health of countries’ climate, biodiversity and food systems, governments are increasingly seeing restoration as a major tool to achieve their environment and economic development objectives.

That was made clear in the opening panel, chaired by Andrea Meza, Minister of Energy and Environment of Costa Rica, who gathered 6 ministers to discuss the role of nature-based solutions like forest protection and land restoration in climate action. The ministers strengthened their commitments in an official communiqué.

As part of the effort to turn those commitments into action, the attendees heard from five Initiative 20x20 countries that have participated in the Restoration Policy Accelerator, a World Resources Institute (WRI) program that supports senior government policymakers developing public policies that incentivize restoration and sustainable land use. Finally, key representatives from Initiative 20x20 member countries discussed how they are integrating restoration, a key way to mitigate climate change and help people adapt to its effects, directly into their NDCs to the Paris Agreement.

Technical Expertise

The second day brought participants’ attention to technical knowhow that is key to ensuring that restoration at a large scale is done effectively. Panels covered a diversity of pressing topics on i) native tree seed and seedling supply, ii) restoring biodiversity, and iii) the social and economic impact of restoration projects

The partners agreed that restoration can be a cost-effective way to achieve, climate, biodiversity and productive goals, all at once.

Mobilizing Capital

Initiative 20x20 has always underscored the role of private capital. Investment in restoration can offer valuable revenue both to private actors operating in the landscape – think landowners and local communities – and to investors looking for financial returns. The third day granted an opportunity to highlight some of the successful restoration projects from Initiative 20x20’s partners – more than 60 of which are featured on its website – and the need for greater engagement by the private sector.

The need and opportunity for large scale restoration action was highlighted in a panel that included the CEOs of some of the largest impact investment funds and other financial partners working with the Initiative. Partners also highlighted the need to invest in restoring ecosystems outside of forests, like wetlands, grasslands, shrublands and agricultural lands, as these can also deliver valuable economic benefits. They also pointed out that carbon markets will likely provide a key future revenue stream that can turn restoration projects into profitable businesses. Finally, the participants explored programs, like the Land Accelerator entrepreneurship training program, that are helping nascent projects grow into thriving businesses.

The road ahead: Climate, biodiversity and food systems

As the world begins to recover from COVID-19 and seeks to meet its development and climate objectives by 2030, Initiative 20x20 is working to strengthen the economic resilience of Latin America and the Caribbean. Its partners have made one thing clear: A strong restoration movement can address the challenge of climate change, biodiversity loss and unsustainable practices in agriculture and forestry. Much is yet to be done, and the Initiative 20x20 network will continue to meet throughout the year via its public webinar series to continue the conversation.  

Meanwhile, as the secretariat of Initiative 20x20, World Resources Institute will continue to support the platform and ensure that it remains a valuable instrument for achieving the region’s ambitious restoration objectives.