Photo: Ecological restoration of former sheep-ranching fields and natural regeneration in mountain areas at the Pumalín Douglas Tompkins Park in Chaitén, Los Lagos province, Chile.
Chile recently updated its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for the reduction of its greenhouse gas emissions, becoming the first Latin American country and one of the first countries in the world to carry this out. This was officially announced by Environment Minister Carolina Schmidt, reaffirming Chile's commitment and leadership against climate change at the regional and global levels.
One of the innovations this brings is the incorporation of forest and landscape restoration (FLR) as a pillar of the transformation towards a more sustainable and climate-resilient economy. It complements adaptation and mitigation actions to reduce climate change risks included in Chile's National Development Policy.
This is an unprecedented achievement that should inspire similar actions by other countries in Latin America and the rest of the world.
Returning ecological and productive functionality to a million hectares of priority land and forests that have been degraded as a result of human and natural factors, by 2050, is an ambitious vision that strengthens Chile's decarbonization process. It is also a vital resource to safeguard its natural capital and has multiple social, environmental, and economic benefits for its people.
To achieve this goal, Chile will have a National Restoration Plan in 2021. Currently under the public consultation phase prior to ratification, the Plan is the result of the collaboration between the Ministries of the Environment (MMA) and Agriculture (MINAGRI), through its National Forest Corporation (CONAF) and the Forestry Institute (INFOR); the private sector, and civil society organizations. An update of the Plan was presented at COP25 in Madrid.
Initiative 20x20 has supported the Chilean process by convening representatives of the agricultural, forestry, and environmental sectors to facilitate access to the technical, financial, and public policy tools that accompany restoration actions. Technical partners of the Initiative, such as the Tropical Agricultural Research and Training Center (CATIE), World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have been instrumental since the evaluation and design stages. As a founding partner of the Initiative, Chile had access to a useful network of partners and resources to assist them in the creation of mechanisms to align public policies and access investment opportunities. These were important to develop its restoration strategy and will be crucial during its implementation stage.
In the technical field, two methodological tools developed by WRI were used in the design phase for the first time in Latin America. On the one hand, Mapping Social Landscapes provided information on the environmental governance of the analyzed lands, with an emphasis on the social capital of the landscape's actors to encourage their participation and collaboration in restoration. The Restoration Diagnostic was jointly applied. It is a methodology that enables the necessary conditions to intervene in the landscapes, as well as to design the policies, practices, and other measures required for successful implementation. This tool is part of the Guide to the Restoration Opportunity Assessment Methodology (ROAM), developed by WRI and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
As a result, the Chilean Plan contemplates restoration actions with a landscape approach that favor human development, and in which the environmental, forestry, and agricultural sectors work coordinately. This could imply, for example, that productive activities such as sustainable forestry or agroforestry can contribute to the conservation and regeneration of native forests while becoming part of value chains and investments that improve the economic opportunities for communities and allow for comprehensive landscape management that helps prevent and mitigate fires. The benefits to nature and people are tangible and measurable in terms of biodiversity, ecosystem services (such as more productive soils and a greater supply of water), jobs, and less vulnerability to extreme weather events.
The priority landscapes to be restored will be selected using socioeconomic risk and environmental vulnerability criteria, and will include interventions for ecological restoration, rehabilitation of degraded soils and hydrological cycles, as well as the restoration of areas affected by fires and other factors causing natural degradation in protected areas. The plan also considers the connection of terrestrial ecosystems with marine-coastal continental-water areas and continental waters, which in Chile's case are fundamental for sustainable economic development and productivity.
Initiative 20x20 celebrates Chile's inclusion of landscape restoration goals in their NDCs as a successful national effort to ensure the benefits of forests and healthy lands for present and future generations while providing economic opportunities and better quality of life for people. These factors will be highly significant to ensure a fair climate transition, especially in the present scenario of global economic recovery due to the impact of COVID-19. The partners of Initiative 20x20 will continue to support the efforts of Chile and other Latin American and Caribbean countries to decarbonize their economies in favor of lasting, sustainable, and equitable prosperity.