U.N. Report: We Need To Restore A Billion Hectares Of Land To Avoid Ecosystem Collapse

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With the launch of the United Nations (UN) Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, the UN has called on nations to meet their sustainability commitments by 2030 with the warning that collectively, at least 1 billion degraded hectares of land must be restored, the equivalent to an area around the size of China. Furhter, and to further add similar commitments to protect the oceans.

Titled ‘#GenerationRestoration: Ecosystem restoration for People, Nature and Climate’, the joint report by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), emphasises the need for restoration efforts, financial investments and its possible returns and how just conservation and protection efforts are not sufficient to tackle climate change, biodiversity loss as well as pollution.

The report shows that at the moment, the world is using 1.6 times the amount of services that actually nature can provide in a sustainable manner. Meaning that to avert large-scale ecosystem collapse, apart from conservation, global terrestrial restoration is needed with its costs amounting to be US$200 billion per year by 2030, not including costs of restoring marine ecosystems and with every US$1 invested in these methods, it can create economic benefits up to US$30.

Restoring ecosystems means putting an end and reversing degradation and as a result, there will be cleaner air and water, mitigation of effects of adverse weather, improved human health and thriving biodiversity that includes better pollination of plants. With practices like reforestation, re-wetting peatlands and coral rehabilitation, the SDGs can be achieved as well as the objectives of the three ‘Rio Conventions’ on Climate, Biodiversity, and Desertification.

Executive director of UNEP Inger Andersen, and director-general of FAO, QU Dongyu wrote in the report’s foreword: “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.”

Some of the ecosystems that need immediate restoration are farmlands, forests, grasslands and savannahs, mountains, peatlands, urban areas, freshwaters, and oceans. Furthermore, communities that are residing in over two billion degraded hectares of land are some of the world’s poorest and marginalized.

Read: U.N. Secretary-General Says Wealthy Nations Need To Cough Up US$100 Billion To Reach Global Climate Goals

Drawing on the latest scientific evidence, the report 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

Executive director of UNEP Inger Andersen, and director-general of FAO, QU Dongyu wrote in the foreword to the report

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

If restoration efforts are combined with the protection of natural ecosystems, it could avoid 60% of predicted biodiversity extinctions. This will further lead to several economic, social and ecological benefits, for instance, agroforestry can likely increase food security for 1.3 billion people and investing in agriculture, protection of mangroves and water management practices can tackle climate change and even have four times the benefit of the invested capital.

Degradation is already affecting the well-being of an estimated 3.2 billion people – that is 40% of the world’s population. Every single year we lose ecosystem services worth more than 10% of our global economic output

Executive director of UNEP Inger Andersen, and director-general of FAO, QU Dongyu wrote in the foreword to the report

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In addition, to monitor and track the progress of these efforts and to encourage private and public investments, the UNEP and FAO have set up the Digital Hub for the UN Decade that has the Framework for Ecosystem Restoration Monitoring that provides countries and communities tools to calculate the progress of restoration projects and establish ownership.

It even features the Drylands Restoration Initiatives Platform that gathers and assesses data, and shares insights that are key in design of drylands restoration projects as well as an interactive geospatial mapping tool to find the most suitable locations for restoring forests.

It is therefore crucial to have all stakeholders including individuals, businesses, associations and governments with respect to restoration efforts and especially keep in mind the best interests of the indigenous people and local communities, learning from their knowledge and experience to build and execute sustainable projects.


Lead image courtesy of UENP.

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