A global conference in New York pins hope on restoring 350 million hectares of degraded land - an area equivalent to the size of India; land restoration could create $9 trillion in benefits
Throughout the world land degradation is affecting the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people, fueling fears of a mass species extinction and costing more than 10 percent of the annual global gross product in lost ecosystem services, according to a recent report of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration (GPFLR).
Spearheaded by the Internation Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the GPFLR was initiated in 2003 to work for the cause of the world’s lost and degraded forests and their surrounding landscapes.
However, over 700 delegates from across the world, who attended the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference on the sideline of the UN General Assembly at the United Nations in New York in the last week, pinned high hope on GPFLR estimation that restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes – an area equivalent to the size of India – will results in $9 trillion net financial benefit.
GLF conference aimed at galvanizing efforts, preparing governments and civil society to engage over its mandate to restore land and water ecosystems on a massive scale, providing an urgently needed buffer against the climate crisis.
Worldwide, some 2 billion hectares of land, a footprint the size of South America are degraded, according to GPFLR.
GLF is the world’s largest knowledge-led platform on integrated land use, dedicated to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement, the GLF’s communication lead Julie Mollins told Dhaka Tribune.
Currently, almost 40 percent of all land is used for farming. Soil fertility is subject to erosion, depletion and pollution and about 20 percent of the Earth’s vegetated surface shows declining trends in productivity. By 2050, degradation and climate change could reduce crop yields by 10 percent globally and up to 50 percent in some regions, the report states.
Delegates said, restoration and other natural solutions could contribute more than a third of the solution to the climate crisis.
Global activism in support of forest and land restorations gained momentum at a time when the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration kicks off in 2021, with an aim to strengthen the fight against climate change, providing an umbrella for a range of UN conventions and sustainable development targets, including climate, biodiversity and anti-poverty goals.
The decade will play a vital part in improving the ability of the planet to withstand the pressures of population growth by encouraging governments to etch sustainable ecosystem management strategies into practical policies and practices.
“Widespread ecosystem restoration will be effective when it’s embedded into national strategies, adopted and also implemented in the form of national concrete programs, strategies or concepts,” said former Head of German Division for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) Dr Horst Freiberg, who conceived the idea for the UN Decade with Lina Pohl, El Salvador’s former minister of the environment.
The decade, which will continue until 2030, emphasizes the urgency of offsetting the potential for catastrophic climate change by fulfilling the obligations of the Bonn Challenge. The Bonn Challenge is a global effort to bring 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.
Currently 57 countries, sub-national governments, and private organizations have committed to bring over 170 million hectares under restoration.
The delegates who attended the GLF New York conference include, among others, Xiuhtezeatle Martinez, Indigenous hip hop artist and youth director at conservation group Earth Guardians; Rocky Dawuni, Afro-roots artist and UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador for Africa; Inger Andersen, Head of UN Environment; Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, chief executive of African Union Development Agency - NEPAD; Christiana Figueres, founding partner of Global Optimism; Theo de Jager, president of World Farmers’ Organisation; Taylor Rees and Renan Ozturk, both mountain climbers and filmmakers; Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org; Rebekah Moses, senior manager of impact strategy at Impossible Foods; Lina Pohl, former El Salvador minister of environment; Yannick Glemarec, executive director of Green Climate Fund.
Addressing the conference, Autumn Peltier, a 15-year-old indigenous activist from Canada said, “We all need to think about the planet and work together on solutions to reduce the impacts of human negligence.”
A day after climate strikers inspired by youth environmental activist Greta Thunberg, spilled into the streets around the world to protest human-generated global warming, Autumn Peltier said, “Mother Earth has the power to destroy us all and if we keep harming her, one day she may decide to destroy everything.”