While countries have broadly recognised the role of forests in climate change mitigation and adaptation in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), this ambition is not fully reflected in the targets they have set. As governments embark on the process of reviewing their NDCs, IUCN and Climate Focus conducted an in-depth analysis of the NDCs submitted by countries under the Paris Agreement to see how and where forest and land-based targets were identified. This timely analysis reveals opportunities where countries could increase their ambition through forest landscape restoration (FLR).

Globally, the financial implications of degradation and deforestation are compelling. In 2008, annual economic losses from deforestation and degradation were estimated at €1.5–3.4 trillion, equal to 3.3–7.5% of global GDP. The urgent need for economic diversification and sustainable management of natural resources is underscored by the Paris Agreement that promotes low carbon and resilient economies.

In 2017, IUCN and Climate Focus conducted a rapid analysis of NDCs, which confirmed that countries view restoration of natural and managed landscapes as an important solution for mitigating climate change. The rapid analysis also showed that countries’ climate ambition varied broadly when considering commitments and climate actions under and beyond the Paris Agreement. While 77% of countries mentioned the implementation of activities encompassed in the FLR concept, only 26% mentioned such actions as quantifiable commitments to be reported upon and measured in achieving the mitigation objectives of the Paris Agreement.

In 2018, the analysis was expanded to provide policy makers with more accurate and detailed information on the role FLR could play in increasing climate ambition and enabling more robust implementation of their countries' NDCs.

Informing more ambitious NDC revision and implementation by learning from current NDCs

Ongoing national processes to review NDCs across the globe provide an excellent opportunity for governments to increase their climate ambition through FLR, conservation and sustainable management. Inspired by the initial findings of the 2017 rapid analysis, and by understanding NDCs as statements of political intent rather than implementation plansIUCN and Climate Focus conducted an in-depth review of all 165 NDCs as of February 2018. 

This in-depth analysis serves as a source of analytical information based on countries’ political instruments, namely NDCs, for reflecting on current and potential climate ambition to contribute to achieving the Paris Agreement – including opportunities and challenges for climate action on the ground by engaging a broad range of actors from national and sub-national governments to the private sector.

The analysis is intended to trigger discussions on the opportunities to scale up climate action through FLR. It can also help identify remaining barriers for ramping up greater climate action. 

By carrying out a detailed policy analysis of each NDC rather than merely searching for key words, the FLR in NDCs analysis offers an overview of countries' commitments under the Paris Agreement – as well as allowing reflection on the additional mitigation and adaptation potential that could be harnessed by maximising the potential of the FLR approach.  

The analysis provides detailed qualitative and quantitative information on climate action under and beyond the scope of the Paris Agreement, disaggregated by:

  • Type of target or potential additional ambition (targets or non-targets);
  • Scope of mitigation targets for accounting purposes;
  • Nature of targets based on conditionality;
  • Mitigation or adaptation approaches; and
  • Specific FLR activities.
Initial findings at a glance

The interpretation and disaggregation of information contained in NDCs prompts reflection on how countries envision FLR commitments under NDCs. Upon examining NDCs through a policy analysis and interpretation lens, we found that:

  • Reforestation, afforestation and silviculture constitute the most prominent land-based mitigation actions considered under countries’ NDCs targets for enhancement of carbon stocks.
  • Such activities add up to 43,610,200 tons of CO2 equivalent under unconditional targets and 3,486,461,370 tons of CO2 equivalent under conditional targets.
  • When considering targets expressed in hectares, current ambition shown in NDCs suggests a potential for restoring 24,019,017 hectares under unconditional commitments and 36,906,523 hectares under conditional targets.
  • Other nature-based solutions such as regeneration and improved land management practices are seen largely from an adaptation perspective in most NDCs – thus their mitigation potential is not fully recognised in current NDCs.

A more detailed Summary of Findings (presentation) on the potential for FLR to achieve the mitigation and adaptation objectives of the Paris Agreement as well as the FLR in NDCs Analysis (excel spreadsheet) and the Methodological Framework (pdf) supporting the analysis, can be found below.