COP15: “Glimmers of light” in dark landscape as IUCN documents restoration efforts

Published 00:08 on December 13, 2022  /  Last updated at 00:39 on December 13, 2022  / Katherine Monahan /  Biodiversity

While extinction threats, tipping points, and ecological collapse have dominated newsfeeds at the COP15 biodiversity negotiations in Montreal, a new IUCN tool allows viewers to track progress on targets to restore degraded landscapes, providing "glimmers of light" in an otherwise dark landscape.

While extinction threats, tipping points, and ecological collapse have dominated newsfeeds at the COP15 biodiversity negotiations in Montreal, a new IUCN tool allows viewers to track progress on targets to restore degraded landscapes, providing “glimmers of light” in an otherwise dark landscape.

Investments of $26 billion across 18 countries have already brought 14 million hectares of degraded landscapes – an area about the size of Greece – under restoration, according to a global transparency initiative launched on Monday by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“There is ambition to be found in a lot of places, and there is action that is already happening,” said Carole Saint-Laurent, head of IUCN’s forests and grasslands team.

“There are definitely glimmers of light,” she added.

The Restoration Barometer documents progress made towards “restoration targets”, or promises to restore natural landscapes that have been deforested, degraded, or otherwise lost.

While the tool currently encompasses pledges from global governments, IUCN aims to expand its scope to the private sector as early as next year. It is also slated for extension to cities and subnational governments.

Some 62 countries have made commitments on land restoration under several previous international initiatives, including the Bonn Challenge, launched in 2011, aiming to restore 350 million hectares of land by 2030.

On Monday, Canada made the most recent pledge under the Bonn Challenge, committing to restore some 19 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes through federal programmes.

“Announcing Canada’s pledge to the Bonn Challenge at COP15 is a critical step to position Canada at the forefront of efforts toward halting and reversing nature loss. We hope other countries will follow,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s minister of natural resources.

Canada has committed to track progress on this commitment through the Restoration Barometer, joining over 50 other global governments that have endorsed the tool.


Tracking progress on these types of commitments requires data and transparency, something that is hard to come by at the global scale, according to experts.

“It’s not enough just to make a target, although it’s an important first step,” said Saint-Laurent.

She said that governments then need to report regularly on their progress through robust data that includes planning processes, strategies, monitoring systems, and sources of funding.

By making this data public, it invites “scrutiny and discourse”, Saint-Laurent said, which can help “course corrections, and help identify where investments should be made”.

The tool provides national-level information from any country with a target expressed in hectares that has committed to reporting through the Barometer. These governments then need to submit required data on a regular basis which is reviewed by IUCN to help build data integrity and reporting accuracy.

The common framework will facilitate any international reporting obligations stemming from the outcomes of COP15 and beyond, Saint-Laurent said.


Monday’s report captured data from 18 countries whose combined restoration efforts, if successful, would see some 48 million hectares of natural areas restored by 2030.

Specifically, the countries captured are:

  • Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru in Latin America
  • Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda in Africa
  • Bangladesh, Sri Lanka in South Asia
  • Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan in Central Asia

Saint-Laurent said that the $26 billion invested thus far spans domestic, international, and private sector sources.

The reporting framework also allows assessment of resulting climate, biodiversity, and socio-economic benefits.

Monday’s report included accompanying detailed case studies that showed restoration initiatives to have resulted in 12 million jobs.

Moreover, the restoration efforts are shown to have resulted in 145 million tonnes of carbon benefits in 2022 alone.

“It is encouraging to see progress made by countries in their landscape restoration targets, as outlined in the 2022 Restoration Barometer report,” said Anita Diederichsen, non-profit WWF lead for forest landscape restoration.

“The report provides critical insight that will be instrumental in increasing transparency and accountability. And it goes beyond the hectares to show the impact of restoration on people and the climate,” she added.


The Restoration Barometer was developed by IUCN with the support of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, and non-profits Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety, and Consumer Protection.

It was first launched in 2016 as the Bonn Challenge Barometer, and piloted for forest landscapes in several countries.

The new tool now allows governments to track restoration initiatives and their benefits across all terrestrial ecosystems, including coastal and inland waters, and it will soon be extended to other marine ecosystems, such as shallow reefs.

In addition to the reporting protocol, the Barometer will increasingly integrate data from a range of existing and emerging sources, IUCN said, such as data from restoration mapping initiatives, to build a comprehensive picture of restoration progress.

Created in 1948, IUCN is known as the world’s largest environmental network, comprising both public and private memberships, and includes some 1,400 member organisations. It is broadly knows as a leading providers of conservation data, assessments, and analysis.

As the Barometer prepares to extend to the private sector next year, 34 companies are already piloting the tool in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and its initiative.

By Katherine Monahan –

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