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World Environment Day: United Nations calls on Countries to Fulfill Commitments to Restore One Billion Hectares of Land

A new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), launched as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

Shivam Dwivedi
World Environment Day
World Environment Day

A new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), launched as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.  

This report says, the world must deliver on its commitment to restore at least one billion degraded hectares of land in the next decade- an area about the size of China. Countries also need to achieve similar promises for oceans too. 

The report, Generation Restoration: Ecosystem restoration for People, Nature and Climate, emphasized that humanity is using about 1.6 times the amount of services that nature can provide sustainably. 

This clearly indicates that conservation efforts alone are not enough to stop large- scale ecosystem collapse and biodiversity loss. Global terrestrial restoration costs- not including costs of restoring marine ecosystems- are estimated to be at least USD 200 billion per year by 2030. The report also highlights that every 1 USD invested in restoration generates up to USD 30 in economic benefits. 

Right now, all Ecosystems requiring immediate restoration include farmlands, drylands, forests, grasslands and savannahs, mountains, peatlands, urban areas, freshwaters, and oceans. 

“This report presents the case for why we must all throw our weight behind a global restoration effort. Drawing on the latest scientific evidence, it sets out the crucial role played by ecosystems, from forests and farmland to rivers and oceans, and it charts the losses that result from a poor stewardship of the planet,” UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen, and FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, wrote in the report’s foreword. 

“Degradation is already affecting the well- being of an estimated 3.2 billion people- that is 40 percent of the world’s population. Every single year we lose ecosystem services worth more than 10 percent of our global economic output,” they added further, stressing that “massive gains await us” by reversing these trends. 

Ecosystem restoration is the process of preventing and overturning degradation, resulting in much cleaner air and water, extreme weather mitigation, good human health, and recovered biodiversity, including improved pollination of plants. Restoration includes a wide array of practices, from reforestation to re- wetting peatlands and coral rehabilitation. 

It also promotes to the realization of multiple Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including health, clean water, and peace and security, and to the aims of the three ‘Rio Conventions’ on Climate, Biodiversity, and Desertification. 

To meet the Paris Agreement target of keeping global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, it is very important to take necessary actions that prevent, halt and reverse degradation. 

Restoration, if unite with stopping further conversion of natural ecosystems, may assist avoid 60 percent of expected biodiversity extinctions. It can be highly effective & efficient in producing multiple economic, social and ecological benefits concurrently- for instance, agro-forestry alone has the ability to enhance food security for 1.3 billion people, while investments in agriculture, mangrove protection and water management will help adapt to climate change, with benefits around 4 times the original investment. 

Proper & Reliable monitoring is very important for the restoration efforts, both to track progress and to attract private and public investments. Supporting this, UNEP and FAO also launch today the ‘Digital Hub for the UN Decade’, which include the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring. 

The Framework empowers countries and communities to gauge the progress of restoration projects across key ecosystems, helping to improve ownership and trust in restoration efforts. It also includes the Drylands Restoration Initiatives Platform, which collects and analyses data, shares lessons and helps in the design of drylands restoration projects, and an interactive geo-spatial mapping tool to assess the best locations for forest restoration. 

Restoration must embrace all stakeholders including individuals, businesses, associations, and governments. Last but not least, it must respect the needs and rights of Indigenous Peoples and local communities, and integrate their knowledge, experience and capacities to secure restoration plans are implemented and sustained. 

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