Rooting out climate change
Let’s face it: we are not on track to win the war against climate change. Time is running out, and more and more citizens around the world are starting to feel the effects of a warming world.
Nature is sending us increasingly clear warning signs: the World Meteorological Organization puts the risk of another El Niño event in the second half of this year at 50 per cent – only two years after the last ‘once in a decade’ extreme weather phenomenon. And just last month, the entrance to the global seed vault in northern Norway, which was built to keep the world’s agricultural seeds safe for future generations, was flooded by melting permafrost. The natural world is starting to change rapidly, and if we do not step up our pace of climate action, events might overtake us and climate change will slip out of our control. Time has come to take more radical steps. So what can be done?
Firstly, we must harness the power of the land. Forests, fields, wetlands and other terrestrial ecosystems are major carbon stores, and they could absorb enormous additional amounts of carbon dioxide, if we would restore them to a higher level of health and productivity. More than 2 billion hectares of ecosystems world-wide are degraded; almost 20 per cent of all land.
The New York Declaration on Forests and the Sustainable Development Goals are calling for transformative, concerted action to conserve, sustainably manage and restore forests and landscapes. Restoring 350 million hectares over the coming decade, an area the size of India, could remove up to 1.7 billion tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere every year – the same as taking half of all cars in the world off the road. It would also generate an estimated USD 170 billion per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products.