Find out more about World Environment Day and its 2024 theme of land restoration.

As International Days go, World Environment Day is one of the most important. With catastrophic levels of deforestation, ocean pollution and land degradation leading to a rapid decline in the population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians, this year’s event is more crucial than ever.

Happening on June 5 all over the world, the slogan of this year’s World Environment Day is ‘Our land. Our future. We are #GenerationRestoration’, and will focus on land restoration, halting desertification and building drought resilience. The process of restoring land that’s been turned to desert through deforestation, urbanisation, industrial development or agricultural expansion is an increasing problem, especially in developing countries, and one that’s affecting the lives of billions.

The scale of the problem

According to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the UN organisation dedicated to promoting practices that avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation, up to 40% of the planet’s land is degraded, which directly affects half of the world’s population. The number and duration of droughts has increased by 29% since 2000, and without urgent action, droughts could affect over three-quarters of the world’s population by 2050.

“By restoring land, we restore life, restore our economies, restore our communities, and so much more,” said UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw. “We cannot stop the climate crisis today, biodiversity loss tomorrow, and land degradation the day after. We need to tackle all these issues together.”

Less land, less food

Whether it’s forest, coasts, mountains or grasslands, billions of hectares of land have been degraded and reduced to desert over the past decade. As well as providing habitats for plants and wildlife, this land has a vital role as a carbon sink, trapping and storing carbon to reduce the effects of climate change.

A landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2019 highlighted the consequences of land degradation on climate change and food security. “When land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon,” the report stated. “This exacerbates climate change, while climate change in turn exacerbates land degradation.”

The report went on to state that drylands and areas that experience desertification are also more vulnerable to climate change and extreme events including drought, heatwaves, and dust storms, with an increasing global population providing further pressure.

What you can do

While there are many reports outlining the challenges and issues around land degradation, there are a number of organisations that are doing something about it. Working with its partner World Land Trust, Carbon Balanced Paper is helping to fund a series of projects that’s restoring large areas of land critical to protecting a range of threatened animal and plant species.

One of the largest is the Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Central Vietnam, which is one of the most important areas in the world in terms of ecology and wildlife. Carbon Balanced Paper has been fundraising for this project for a number of years, and in that time the forest has been officially recognised as a nature reserve.

But, of course, there’s a lot more land to restore and protect if a real difference is to be made. And part of that difference is raising awareness of the many threats to the world’s environment and what you can do about them.

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