Azerbaijan has announced it will restore 170,000 ha of degraded lands by 2030, and an additional 100,000 ha conditional upon receiving funding, under the Bonn Challenge. The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 350 million ha of degraded and deforested land into restoration by 2030.
With this commitment, Azerbaijan joins six countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia (Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan), bringing the region’s collective commitments under the Bonn Challenge to about 3 million ha. These pledges were made in 2018 at the Ministerial Roundtable for Forest Landscape Restoration for the Caucasus and Central Asia, which also adopted the Astana Resolution, committing to strengthen partnerships and regional cooperation.
The pledge by Azerbaijan was made on 30 May 2019 at the Forest Congress for the Caucasus and Central Asia, convened by UNECE/FAO at lake Issyk Kul in Kyrgyzstan. The Forest Congress brought together stakeholders from the five Central Asian and three Caucasian countries to enhance regional cooperation for sustainable forest management.
For Azerbaijan, joining the Bonn Challenge is a great opportunity to not only increase benefits from forest ecosystems but also to gain international visibility for its efforts. “Azerbaijan is a low-forest-cover country, that prioritizes the increase of forest cover and the restoration of degraded lands”, said Mr. Sadig Salmanov, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Azerbaijan. “On behalf of the government of Azerbaijan, I would like reiterate our support for the Bonn Challenge and add our contribution of 270,000 ha of restored area by 2030”. To achieve this goal, Azerbaijan has already started to identify the potential areas for restoration, focusing particularly on riparian Tugai forests.
“Countries have already made huge steps in implementing forest landscape restoration and their pledges under the Bonn Challenge”, said Ekrem Yazici, Deputy Chief of the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section. “Seeing this strong engagement of the countries, we need to use the momentum to scale up forest landscape restoration”. The pledge from Azerbaijan complements the work and efforts of this region and reinforces the Astana Resolution.
“As the founder and Secretariat of the Bonn Challenge, IUCN welcomes Azerbaijan’s restoration pledge. By making a pledge to the Bonn Challenge, Azerbaijan is showing its commitment to improving the resilience of local communities to climate change, reducing poverty and conserving biodiversity,” said Roman Volosyanchuk, Conservation Officer at IUCN’s Regional Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia. “IUCN looks forward to working closely with the government to move from pledge to implementation by providing its knowledge, methodologies and monitoring instruments, such as the Bonn Challenge Barometer”, he concluded.
At the Congress, countries reported on their achievements and implementation efforts. Uzbekistan, for instance, reported that only one year after pledging towards the Bonn Challenge, that their commitment to restore 500,000 ha was fulfilled and that the country is now considering increasing its commitment.
The upcoming UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021–2030) offers an important opportunity for the countries of Central Asia and the Caucasus to raise awareness of their restoration efforts, which make a direct contribution to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.