The United Nations has issued a massive global ‘call to action’ to mobilize the political and financial support necessary to restore the world’s deforested and degraded ecosystems over the coming decade to support the wellbeing of 3.2 billion people around the globe. More than 2 billion hectares – an area larger than the South American continent – stand to be restored.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, approved by the General Assembly on 1 March, will run from 2021 to 2030 and emphasize scaling-up of restoration work to address the severe degradation of landscapes, including wetlands and aquatic ecosystems, worldwide. It will likely boost landscape restoration work to the top of national agendas, building on a public demand for action on issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and the resulting impacts on economies and livelihoods.
“I think there are many stars that are aligning now,” said UN Environment’s Tim Christophersen, who serves as chair of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration, in an interview with Landscape News. “We have to conserve what is left – stop the bleeding – but also give patient Earth … a blood transfusion.”
“These things need to go in parallel. There’s a clearer understanding of that now, and the broad movement for restoration now has many years of experience,” he added.
UN Environment will work with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN(FAO) to lead the implementation of the Decade.
The concept for the Decade grew from a proposal by El Salvador, a Latin American leader in environmental efforts, to pool global resources and dedicate 10 years to promoting restoration. During a pivotal Bonn Challenge event in March 2018 held in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil, El Salvador’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources urged the international community to support a decade dedicated to landscape restoration.
The ministry alongside former head of UN Environment Erik Solheim continued to push for the Decade at another GLF event in Nairobi in August, a direct prelude to the Decade’s proposal being made public in September at the UN General Assembly in New York.
Land degradation is estimated to cost the global economy between USD 2 and 4.5 trillion each year, while economic benefits of restoration efforts could annually reach an estimated USD 84 billion. At least 7 million hectares of tropical forest landscapes are cleared and degraded each year, putting livelihoods, biodiversity and food security at risk, while exacerbating climate change, conflict and human migration.