Initiative 20x20: Latin American Countries Unite to Restore the Climate, Food Systems and Biodiversity

May 20, 2021

by Initiative 20x20 Secretariat

Initiative 20x20: Latin American Countries Unite to Restore the Climate, Food Systems and Biodiversity

WASHINGTON (May 20, 2021) — Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean restated their commitment to fighting climate change, creating sustainable food systems and protecting biodiversity through the deployment of a key nature-based solution: restoring degraded landscapes. Seventeen countries, Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province and private sector partners are making progress through Initiative 20x20 to meet their goals of protecting and beginning to restore 52.6 million hectares of land, an area larger than Paraguay, by 2030, the final year of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.

 “In 2017-2018, 58% of the Latin America’s greenhouse gas emissions came from agriculture, forests and other land use,” said Walter Vergara, Initiative 20x20 Coordinator and Senior Fellow at World Resources Institute. “Restoring landscapes represents the basis of a cost-effective pathway for Latin America to reach carbon-neutrality by mid-century. Land restoration in the region also brings substantial benefits to the economy, agricultural production and biodiversity.”

This is why Initiative 20x20’s 24 financial partners have earmarked $2.5 billion for investment in forest conservation, reforestation, agroforestry, grassland restoration and low-carbon agriculture.

In total, private sector partners and government programs[1] have reported that they have protected and begun to restore close to 22.6 million hectares of land across 135 projects since Initiative 20x20 launched the nature-based solutions movement in Latin America at the UN climate negotiations in Lima (COP20).[2] Over 60 of these projects can be found on the Initiative 20x20 website here.

Of the total 22.6 million hectares, two-thirds is in new conservation areas, and one-third is in land restoration projects. Protecting existing ecosystems, especially forests, is important, as this is the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions and preserve nature. Yet this also signals a need for increased investment in landscape restoration programs, which can economically, socially, and ecologically benefit local communities. In Latin America, restoration can bring up to $1,140 in economic value per hectare, along with benefits for biodiversity and water supplies.

In this context, eight environment and agriculture ministers issued a communique at the Initiative 20x20 Annual Partners Meeting, which took place from May 18-20. In doing so, they express advocacy for healthy landscapes for the climate, food, and biodiversity in advance of the Paris Agreement climate negotiations (COP26), the UN Food Systems Summit and the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15).

“Protecting and restoring ecosystems is central to achieving sustainable development and attaining carbon neutrality. And it is a strategy that pays social and economic dividends,” said Andrea Meza, Minister of Environment and Energy, Costa Rica.

In addition to the large number of projects already under implementation and to turn that commitment into action, Initiative 20x20 countries and partners have made significant progress in the past two years, despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis:

  • The Brazilian Restoration and Reforestation Observatory has identified thousands of hectares under active restoration and millions under natural regeneration. Linked to policies on low carbon agriculture at the state-level in Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso and Sao Paulo – which all have Initiative 20x20 commitments – this progress shows that restoration is key for green recovery policies in Brazil.
  • Chile has included a target of restoring 1 million hectares of natural ecosystems in its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement through its National Plan for Restoration of Landscapes 2021-2030, currently under internal revision after a public consultation process.
  • Colombia has pledged to achieve zero deforestation by 2030 as well as to conserve the Amazon rainforest and Páramo grassland ecosystems, with plans to undertake massive landscape reforestation and restoration projects as part of its NDC.
  • Costa Rica has made significant progress in its goal of becoming a carbon-neutral country by embracing sustainable land management.
  • Through the Restoration Policy Accelerator, Chile, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Peru are shifting their policy incentives for restoration — and designing new public programs.
  • El Salvador has also designed a Sustainability Index for Landscape Restoration that reflects local priorities and measures carbon storage, biodiversity, economic health and water quality in the degraded El Imposible-Barra de Santiago landscape. Now it hopes to expand the system nationally.

“The urgency of the climate challenges and the increasing awareness that we are dependent on nature makes investing in nature a much needed asset class, with the carbon market as a tool to strengthen the financial attractiveness of land-based options,” said Caroline Van Tilborg, Carbon Asset Manager, HSBC Pollination Climate Asset Management.

“The restoration and conservation of forests and other natural landscapes is the best insurance to maintain the rich biodiversity of our region,” said Rosa Lemos de Sa, CEO, Brazilian Biodiversity Fund (Funbio).

The Initiative 20x20 Secretariat is recognizing three partners for their impact on people and the climate during the COVID-19 crisis and is awarding them its 2021 Special Awards.

Program Award Winner: PROBOSQUE, National Forest Landscape Restoration Strategy of Guatemala

To conserve and restore its forests, Guatemala enacted the PROBOSQUE law, a comprehensive policy that uses direct cash payments to support local landowners that are restoring degraded land. Through the program, Guatemala has invested more than $16 million per year, for a total of $65 million. That funding has enabled local communities to begin restoring 82,000 hectares of land. PROBOSQUE, led by Instituto Nacional de Bosques (INAB), provides a clear example that effective public policies can accelerate restoration.

Project Award Winner: Ejido Verde

Initiative 20x20 partner Ejido Verde has helped 13 local and Indigenous communities across Michoacán, Mexico maintain 4,262 hectares of resin-producing pine trees across 700 farms. Its unique long-term vision sets up these communities to produce high-quality resin used in everyday items like glue, tape and chewing gum, while protecting the environment. By forging strong partnerships with these communities, Ejido Verde is promoting the social, economic, and environmental health of the region.

Portfolio Award Winner: Uncommon Cacao

Uncommon Cacao works with farmers across 10 areas in Latin America to preserve what protects the high quality of their cacao: farmer prosperity and sustainable agricultural practices. Pomona Impact, an Initiative 20x20 partner, has played a key role in developing Uncommon Cacao’s project portfolio., helping the company expand beyond its early growth stage. It now has export operations in Belize and Guatemala, as well as distribution services in the United States and the Netherlands.

To view the agenda and recordings, please click here.


About Initiative 20x20
Initiative 20x20 is a country-led effort to protect and begin restoring 50 million hectares of land in Latin America and the Caribbean by 2030. Governments, impact investors and technical partners launched the initiative in 2014 at COP20 in Lima with a commitment to begin restoring 20 million hectares of degraded land by 2020. Now, member nations and partners are working to make the region carbon neutral by 2050 by protecting and revitalizing 250 million hectares of landscapes for people, the climate and biodiversity.

The partnership aims to change the dynamics of land degradation in the region by strengthening public policies, catalyzing private investment and providing technical assistance. The goal is to reduce carbon emissions, produce food sustainably, reforest land, revitalize natural pastures, avoid deforestation, enhance wetlands and improve livelihoods. To learn more, visit:

Direct all questions to Will Anderson (


[1] Mexican government agency CONAFOR reports that they restored 1 million hectares of public land. Data from ILPF in Brazil documents 4.8 million hectares under improvement during the 2015-2020 period.

[2]These progress figures are conservative. This year, as our satellite monitoring and artificial intelligence methods improve, World Resources Institute will release pilot data that can help project developers, governments, and investors consistently see where trees are growing, both inside and outside forests.