The Restoration Tracker: an interview

Making a pledge to the Bonn Challenge to bring landscapes under restoration is an important first step, but that may actually be the easiest part. The intertwined, complex moving parts between making that pledge and actually restoring landscapes to a viable level of ecological functionality is the tricky part. No one knows this better than Radhika Dave.

old wooden barometer behind glass, reflection on right

woman short black hair looking at camera, stairs door behind Photo: Radhika Dave Dr. Radhika Dave works for IUCN as the coordinator of the Bonn Challenge Barometer, a progress-tracking tool for governments who have pledged to the Bonn Challenge global restoration goal. After the release of a new report on restoration progress in 19 countries, the Global Landscapes Forum’s Landscape News interviewed Radhika about the Barometer and tracking progress on restoration pledges. Below is the complete transcript.

Q: Because of the Bonn Challenge Barometer, we know a lot about how five countries are doing, and some about how several others are doing. How about the rest of the pledgers? What kind of reporting is done by the countries not using the Barometer protocol and how often do they report their progress, if they do?

The 19 countries covered in the report are just the first step – in the coming year, the Barometer will be made available to all current and future Bonn Challenge pledgers. The Barometer is the first and only operational framework for tracking progress on restoration and the benefits it generates. We’re seeing incredible momentum around it – it’s been endorsed by countries in  Central Africa and in the Caucasus and Central Asia region, and it will be a key tool for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. It focuses on both the results of restoration interventions (e.g. hectares, jobs generated, carbon sequestered, biodiversity areas enhanced), and also the required conditions behind it (e.g. the policies a government has passed and the funding they have allocated or secured). This is important because it paints a richer and more valuable picture of restoration progress – built from information within countries – than would be possible via just globally generated satellite imagery, for example. Until we’re able to get all restoration pledgers fully active with the Barometer, we can learn a lot about their progress by looking into their national reporting on restoration programmes as well as their reports to the biodiversity, climate change and desertification conventions – as well as reports on the SDGs. For example, Bangladesh has not applied the Barometer yet, but the country has detailed data on the jobs generated from restoration interventions, disaggregated by gender.

The Bonn Challenge is a global commitment to bring under restoration 150 million hectares of land by 2020. Just to clarify, does this mean that the commitment is to have 150 million hectares be in the process of restoration or is the goal to have 150 million hectares restored by 2020? 

Restoration by its very nature is forward looking and ongoing.  Social and ecological conditions (e.g. migration, changing climate) mean that forest landscapes need to be managed actively over time. While it can take many years for the full benefits of restoration to be achieved, some benefits such as jobs and carbon sequestration begin to flow right away.  The phrases “into restoration” or “under restoration” reflect this.

Is the New York Declaration on Forests now part of the Bonn Challenge? I’ve seen some sources treat the 2030 deadline as part of the Bonn Challenge and others treat it as separate.

The Bonn Challenge has two sub-goals: bringing 150 mil ha into restoration by 2020 and 350 mil ha by 2030. Sources treating the 2030 goal as separate are incorrect. The Bonn Challenge and the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF) are aligned. The NYDF endorsed the Bonn Challenge 2020 goal at the 2014 UN Climate Summit and extended it to include a target of at least an additional 200 mil ha by 2030.

Also clarifying: pledges in the Barometer include only the number of hectares pledged to the Bonn Challenge and not the New York Declaration, correct?

That’s correct – but where there are overlaps between Bonn Challenge pledges and NYDF signatories, the Barometer analysis provides a report on progress on the NYDF commitments as well. Endorsing the NYDF implies a commitment to working towards its 10 goals, which include the Bonn Challenge targets; a Bonn Challenge commitment includes a defined number of hectares where the forest landscape restoration approach will be applied. The Barometer tracks progress on realising/achieving these hectare commitments.  Because some jurisdictions have made Bonn Challenge pledges and signed on to the NYDF, IUCN is able to contribute data to the NYDF progress assessments, with a particular focus on Goal 5 that is focused on restoration.

Are other countries in the pipeline to be included in the Barometer, not including the 19 countries using the protocol in different modes?  

Yes – the goal is for the Barometer to be accessible by the end of 2020 to all countries that have made Bonn Challenge pledges. Beyond that it will be a valuable tool for all countries contributing to the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration between 2021-2030. The Barometer’s online version is available for use by all pledgers and the demand has been incredible, so IUCN is responding to their requests for technical support in applying the protocol in a variety of ways – we’re generating online learning resources on how to use the protocol, conducting in-person capacity-development exercises and are currently exploring additional ways of providing ongoing timely assistance.

What was the most challenging thing about developing the protocol/ applying the Barometer?

Countries are making so much progress on their commitments, but it’s tough to build a full picture of their work on the ground because of the great number of government ministries, local authorities, NGOs, and national and global partners involved in restoration. To paint a full picture of progress we need to be able to aggregate data from projects and landscapes and bring it up to the national level, which is interesting but definitely has its challenges.

“It’s triggered dialogues between people who wouldn’t normally interact with each other, but who all have a role to play in delivering restoration action.”

How often is the Barometer updated?

The Barometer is applied throughout the year, with an update planned to the online portal for later this year. We released the first report of the Barometer in 2017 and the second in 2019. A third flagship report is planned for late 2020. Countries apply the Barometer protocol through the year, not only assessing their progress but also zeroing in on implementation bottlenecks and identifying ways to address them.

Is there any other question I am forgetting to ask, or is there anything else you would like to highlight about the second assessment?

One of the insights we got through the Barometer application in different countries was that, in fact, it’s been a game changer in many ways.  For example it’s triggered dialogues between people who wouldn’t normally interact with each other, but who all have a role to play in delivering restoration action – across sectors, ministries and different types of stakeholders. We’re also really excited about continuing to grow the diverse sources of information that are available and capturing those to build this credible and tangible picture of restoration progress. The online tool, mentioned earlier, is about engaging, and has exceeded our expectations – immediately making the Barometer accessible to additional pledgers, enhancing transparency and generating data that is useful to policy-makers, practitioners, investors, donors and many others who are involved in this journey to improve human wellbeing and ecological integrity through restoration of degraded and deforested landscapes.

Second Bonn Challenge progress report: Application of the Barometer 2018

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