Leaders call for restoring 250 million acres of African landscapes by 2030

By some estimates, as much as half the carbon dioxide so far put into the atmosphere by human activity has come from trashing the land — by deforestation, draining wetlands, overgrazing grasslands and the destruction of soils. So why not bring that carbon back to earth by restoring damaged landscapes?

Advocates here at the Paris conference say replanting forests and reviving soils could realistically absorb a quarter of current industrial emissions. And they want to start in Africa.

The continent may often conjure up images of spreading deserts and ransacked forests. But some of the biggest hitters in global environmental management unveiled plans in Paris for a grand restoration of Africa’s landscapes.

Carbon will come back to earth in trees, bushes, crops and soils, where it will bring life and prosperity,” said Andrew Steer, CEO of the World Resources Institute, which has masterminded the plan with the World Bank, the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and others.

They want $2 billion a year spent on restoring 100 million hectares (250 million acres) of Africa by 2030 — an area three times the size of Germany.

The plans were announced to some 3,000 delegates attending a Global Landscapes Forum in Paris on Sunday.

But Africa is far from alone on the restoration trail. Brazil has plans for putting back lost Amazon rainforest. After cutting deforestation rates in the Amazon by 80 percent over the past decade, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff promised in Paris last week that Brazil would now be “restoring and reforesting 12 million hectares of forests and another 15 million hectares of degraded pasture land.”

We need landscape restoration for development and for climate,” said Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former Nigerian finance minister.

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