Launched ahead of World Environment Day on June 5, a UN-backed report on ecosystem restoration highlighted ways to reverse nature destruction, such as reforestation, rewetting of peatlands and rehabilitating corals.
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Food and Agriculture Organization report urged governments, businesses and communities to deliver on the commitments they have already made under previous agreements, to restore degraded land covering at least 1 billion hectares (2.4 billion acres).
These lands include farms, forests, savannas, mountains and even urban areas.
The report, titled #GenerationRestoration, said similar commitments should also be made for marine and coastal areas.
Tim Christophersen, who heads UNEP’s nature climate arm, said rehabilitating one billion hectares would require “a whole different mindset … moving away from small projects to a larger-scale effort.” .
“This is essential for our biodiversity and climate change goals, but also for many sustainable development goals,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Nature restoration can happen at any scale, whether it is a garden, a city park, a river valley, a national forest, or an endangered ecosystem. globally, the report notes.
But, he warned, humans are using about 1.6 times the amount of resources the planet can replenish, meaning that conservation efforts alone cannot prevent the large-scale collapse of ecosystems and loss of biodiversity.
Better conservation, restoration and management of natural areas, such as parks, forests and wilderness, are seen as key tools for nations to achieve their goals of reducing global warming emissions and reversing loss of plant and animal species.
Cutting down forests – often to meet growing demand for staples such as palm oil and beef – has major implications for global climate change goals, as trees take up about a third of carbon emissions produced around the world.
Existing nature restoration commitments include the Bonn Challenge, launched in 2011, which aims to restore 350 million hectares of degraded forest land by 2030, with commitments about two-thirds already made.
Communities living on nearly 2 billion hectares of degraded land globally include some of the poorest and most marginalized people, according to the UN report.
Land degradation affects the well-being of an estimated 3.2 billion people, or 40% of the world’s population, he added.
Global annual spending to protect and restore terrestrial nature is set to triple this decade to around $ 350 billion by 2030 and reach $ 536 billion by 2050, according to another UN report in May.
Half of global economic growth depends on nature, according to the latest report, adding that for every dollar invested in land restoration, up to $ 30 is created in economic benefits.
Agroforestry alone – where trees are planted among crops on farms – has the potential to increase food security for 1.3 billion people, according to the report.
Investments in agriculture, mangrove protection and water management will help people and nature adapt to climate change, with benefits roughly four times the initial investment, he said. note.
Andrea Hinwood, chief scientist at UNEP, said the COVID-19 pandemic had boosted public interest in nature conservation and that economic stimulus packages were an opportunity to invest in it.
Yet, so far, just under a fifth of stimulus spending can be characterized as green, according to the UN report. Businesses and financiers should also review their activities and investments to make supply chains more sustainable, he added.
“There is a coalition of the willing from communities to governments and (we need to) build on it,” Hinwood said.
Christophersen said successful natural restoration in countries like Costa Rica, China and Pakistan has been driven by political will. “With political will, all these other obstacles can be overcome,” he added.