Unless countries follow through on a commitment to restoring an area of the planet the size of China over the next ten years, the destruction of nature, climate change and pollution will continue to advance by leaps and bounds, causing food insecurity crises and other disasters. This is warned by two specialized agencies of the UN.
A recently released report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) calls on the world to rehabilitate at least 1 billion hectares of degraded land by 2030 and calls for a similar commitment to the oceans to ensure food security and prevent other catastrophes.
The publication of the report coincides with the beginning of the United Nations Decade on the Restoration of Ecosystems (2021-2030), whose objective is to raise awareness about the importance of the protection and recovery of nature in all corners of the Earth. The UN General Assembly proclaimed the decade to foster a broad and strong global movement that sets the world on the path to a sustainable future through political momentum and thousands of initiatives on the ground.
According to the study Restoring Ecosystems for the Benefit of People, Nature and Climate, humanity is using around 1.6 times more services than nature can sustainably provide.
With regard to the oceans, it stands out that they constitute 70% of the planet and that two thirds of its ecosystems are damaged, degraded and modified, in addition to suffering high pollution from plastics.
Restoring nature will help mitigate the climate crisis and the biodiversity crisis. (Photo: CIFOR / Terry Sunderland)
UNEP and FAO note that 420 million hectares of forests have been lost from 1990 to date and that countries have not made enough progress to deliver on promises to increase the world’s total forest area by 3% by 2030.
“Conservation efforts are not enough by themselves to prevent the collapse of large-scale ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity,” warned the agencies, underlining the urgency for countries to “reprogram” their recovery after COVID-19 and move away from massive subsidies to carbon and fossil fuel related sectors, while planting forests.
UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen and FAO Director General Qu Dongyu indicated that degradation already affects the well-being of some 3.2 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population.
“Every year, we lose ecosystem services worth more than 10% of our global economic output,” they said, stating that if these trends were reversed, the benefits would be enormous for the entire population.
For his part, the head of the UNEP Ecosystems Division emphasized the imperative need to restore nature to meet the objective of the Paris Agreement of limiting the increase in global average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius with respect to pre-industrial levels. .
“If we do this on the necessary scale, it will have benefits far beyond climate change and biodiversity; it will help food security, health, clean water and employment. Restoration can benefit all of these Sustainable Development Goals, ”said Tim Christophersen.
Ecosystems, from forests and farmlands to rivers, oceans and coastal areas, offer natural protection against the triple threat of climate change, loss of nature and pollution, but mismanagement of the planet threatens well-being of future generations, the report notes.
It details that the areas of urgent attention are agricultural lands and forests, grasslands and savannas, mountains, peatlands, urban areas, freshwater bodies and oceans.
Financing and respect for the rights of the communities
The text also recalls that the communities living on 2 billion degraded hectares of land are among the poorest and most marginalized in the world.
UN agencies insisted that countries should make a global restoration effort that protects and promotes natural spaces, as this would generate cleaner air and water, mitigate extreme weather events, and improve human and animal health. as well as greater biodiversity.
According to the report, the restoration by 2030 of the degraded land area requires investing at least 200,000 million annually during this decade.
UNEP and FAO noted that every dollar invested would be multiplied by 30 in terms of economic benefits.
They added that restoration must involve all stakeholders, including individuals, companies, associations and governments. They also clarified that it must be carried out respecting the rights and needs of indigenous peoples and local communities and incorporating their knowledge, experience and capacities. (Source: UN News)