Led by World Environment Day, the United Nations Decade of Restoration aims to protect and revive ecosystems around the world to reverse climate change and prevent the collapse of biodiversity.
Saturday 5 June 2021 is a big day for the world. Since 1974, the date of June 5 has been World Environment Day, the United Nations’ main event for raising awareness, supporting action, and driving change for the environment. Hosted by different countries around the world, this year’s World Environment Day will be hosted by Pakistan and has the theme of Ecosystem Restoration.
There’s little doubt that the world’s ecosystems have taken a hit over the past two decades. Whether it’s forestry, wetlands, farmlands, rivers, oceans or cities, degradation from intensive farming, pollution, lack of green space, and a host of other unsustainable and harmful practices have resulted in a sharp increase in poverty, extinction, displacement, natural disaster, disease, climate change and a steep decline in biodiversity and wellbeing.
The mountain of evidence that supports the restoration of ecosystems has been piling up for years:
- Restoration and other natural solutions can deliver one third of the mitigation needed by 2030 to keep global warming below 2ºC (Kapos et al, 2019).
- Up to 700 million people are predicted to migrate because of land degradation and climate change by 2050 (IPBES, 2018).
- Restoring 15% of converted lands in the right places could prevent 60% of projected species extinctions (Strassburg et al, 2020).
- Forests provide drinking water to one third of the world’s largest cities, and support 80%, 75% and 68% of all amphibian, bird, and mammal species, respectively (HLPE, 2017; Vié, Hilton-Taylor and Stuart, 2009).
The UN Decade of Restoration
It’s clear that, while World Environment Day is an immensely worthwhile annual reminder about the global eco-crisis and a gathering point for hundreds of seminars, discussions, events and initiatives, it’s going to take more than a single day to alter the course of the environment. So World Environment Day will be just the beginning of a decade of action on reviving the planet, kickstarting a global movement to halt and reverse the destruction and degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems.
The United Nations Decade of Restoration is a global ten-year strategy to connect and empower the millions of people, groups, organizations, NGOs, and charities to expand their work, while inspiring individuals to join an environmental initiative or start their own. This collective positive action across continents and countries not only aims to directly change the ecosystems around us, but demonstrate the importance of the environment and depth of feeling people have to governments and businesses so that policies can be changed and new legislations made.
“The impacts of ecosystem degradation greatly affect biodiversity, land productivity, and the economies of our countries, particularly in vulnerable parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America,” said Lina Pohl, Head of El Salvador’s Ministry of Environment in an address to the UN General Assembly. “Ecosystem degradation leads to a loss of critical ecosystem services, adversely impacting the wellbeing of at least 3.2 billion people around the world and increasing their vulnerability to the effects of climate change. Reversing this reality is possible through actions in tune with nature.”
The ten-year deadline
Environmentalists and scientists across the planet all agree that the next ten years are crucial in the fight to reverse climate change and avoid the loss of millions of animal and plant species. The phrase ‘tipping point’ has been used a lot, but once a certain amount of natural land, unpolluted riverways, biodiverse species and clean air is lost, it will be lost forever.
The UN Decade of Restoration will not only help the organisations currently fighting to restore global ecosystems, but aim to change attitudes and shift behaviours, working to move people and companies to more sustainable practices. Just as importantly, it will celebrate a culture of restoration, building up a pride in the environment – local, national and global – so that future generations will be educated and inspired to make better choices and turn around the decline.
One organisation on the front line of environmental restoration is World Land Trust. Based in the UK, World Land Trust has been protecting forests around the globe for over 30 years. In that time they have funded the purchase and protection of more than 881,000 acres of tropical forest and other vulnerable land in 20 countries, saving it from deforestation and protecting the natural habitats of thousands of plant and animal species.
World Land Trust raises money through a variety of fundraising appeals and business partnerships, which is then transferred to in-country NGO partners to purchase and protect threatened land. The land is then managed by the NGO together with the local community to ensure the land is protected from threats such as illegal hunting and deforestation.
“Humankind’s challenge ahead is made clear by the science: we’ve only got this decade to get our planet on the right course,” says Jonathan Barnard, CEO of World Land Trust. “At World Land Trust we feel extremely fortunate because we know we’ve already had for decades a generation of supporters making the incredible happen. With the UN’s Decade of Restoration rallying cry lighting the way, we will continue our work for a living planet, driving it at the scale that defeating biodiversity loss and climate change will require.”