U.N. decade of ecosystem restoration would mobilize cost-effective action: El Salvador’s Lina Pohl

Lina Pohl, minister of the environment and natural resources in El Salvador, speaks at the Global Landscapes Forum in Bonn, Germany, December 2017. GLF/Pilar Valbuena
Julie Mollins
3 July 2018

This post is also available in: French

BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — At a major Bonn Challenge event in Brazil in March, El Salvador’s ministry of environment and natural resources, urged the international community to support a decade of landscape restoration.

Now, international momentum is building in support of the initiative, a document originating from Brazil’s environment ministry seen by Landscape News indicates. The goal of countries supporting a U.N. Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 is to put landscape restoration at the forefront of national agendas, underpinning country level efforts to meet U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Land.

A decade focused on restoration would address — in a cost effective way — the severe degradation of ecosystems and agro-ecosystems that countries face, their vulnerability to environmental threats posed by climate change, and the consequences for social and economic development, Lina Pohl, El Salvador’s Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, told Landscape News.

If the proposed U.N. decade from 2021 to 2030 is implemented, it will likely lead to an increase in much needed funds to develop projects that could restore ecosystems, reverse land degradation and biodiversity loss.

“In El Salvador, ecosystems degradation has caused alterations in ecosystem structure and functions, leading to the loss of biodiversity and a decrease in the supply of ecosystem services which impacts on productivity and the quality of life in the territories, increasing vulnerability to the climate threat,” Pohl said.

“Faced with the rapid increase in disasters related to climate change, the country needs to promote an aggressive restoration program that builds resilience, reduces vulnerability and increases the ability of systems to adapt to daily threats and extreme events,” she added.

El Salvador is a regional leader in Initiative 20×20, a restoration framework in South America feeding into targets set through the Bonn Challenge,  a global commitment to restore 150 million hectares of the world’s deforested and degraded land by 2020, and 350 million hectares by 2030 made during U.N. Climate talks in 2014.

Over the past 20 years since establishing its Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, Central America’s smallest country has made a concentrated effort to protect its unique biodiversity. In 2012, the ministry established an innovative Program for Ecosystem and Rural Landscape Restoration.

The event hosted by Brazil, and jointly organized by Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, led to discussions on forest landscape restoration experiences, innovations and financing initiatives.

The proposal to dedicate 10 years to promoting the restoration of more than 2 billion hectares of degraded land worldwide – a footprint larger than South America – will be central to discussions at a Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) summit in Nairobi in August.

Pohl shared her views with Landscape News:

Q: What would be the benefit of such a decade?

The declaration of the international decade of restoration of ecosystems will allow, among others, the following benefits:

  • Provide a common vision and a flexible framework for the implementation of ecosystem restoration initiatives at the national, regional and global levels;
  • Succeed in mobilizing and channeling the necessary means of implementation to support the implementation of national restoration strategies, including South-South cooperation;
  • Monitor progress in the implementation and achievement of milestones at the national and international levels;
  • The construction of public awareness on the importance of functional ecosystems, and healthy land and marine landscapes for human well-being and productive activities. Achieving a full understanding of the impact and relationship between the dynamics and functions of ecosystems and their services on economic sustainability, local development, and the well-being of rural communities and the country as a whole;
  • Recognize that the ecosystem and landscape restoration initiatives, under comprehensive and synergistic approaches, represent an effective instrument to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, particularly SDG 15, and significantly support the achievement of SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action) and SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

Q: What was your inspiration?

Three processes made me think of the declaration initiative and its benefits:

    1. Recognizing that ecosystems restoration has taken a high relevance in the international agenda and has been reflected in several decisions, instruments and agreements reached in different forums, such as the Strategic Plan and the Aichi Goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the goal of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) adopted under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development that adopted the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. Similarly, ecosystems restoration is consistent with other relevant international agreements, such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the United Nations Conference on Oceans and the Paris Agreement of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
    2. With the participation and commitment acquired by El Salvador in the Bonn Challenge Initiative, we were able to experience, first hand, the enthusiasm and commitment of different countries and regions in the establishment of national pledges, developing national plans and strategies to promote restoration initiatives and actions, as well as seeing how other countries joined this initiative. In this context, Central America as one of the most biodiverse centers on the planet, but considered the most sensitive region to the effects of climate change, has taken up this priority – restoring ecosystems – as a cost-effective strategy to achieve environmental stability and sustainability. Thus, the Central American countries have been implementing national ecosystem and landscape restoration strategies, and have voluntarily established ambitious national targets within the Bonn Challenge Initiative.
    3. The experience of El Salvador during the design, formulation and the beginning of the implementation of the National Ecosystem and Landscape Restoration Program, showed how restoration initiatives are presented as an urgent and necessary measure to reverse the high degree of environmental deterioration, and thus, recover critical ecosystem services for the reduction of disaster risks, to increase adaptive capacity and reduce the vulnerability of the territories, as well as to guarantee food security, maintain livelihoods and achieve stability in the economic activities that are carried out in the landscapes intervened.

Q: What makes it relevant to both El Salvador and the international community? 

A: It is understood that restoration, together with the consolidated actions made on ecosystems protection and conservation — the result of several decades of applying this approach — allows the reduction of vulnerability to climate change, and particularly loss and damage from extreme weather events.

Ecosystems restoration complies with cost-benefit conditions and adopts an integral approach to landscape restoration, restoring and preserving forested areas, promoting the establishment of biological corridors and the rehabilitation and transformation of agricultural areas through the adoption of sustainable practices — including the promotion of resilient agroforestry systems — allows the creation of a much more favorable environment to conserve biodiversity, recover the functionality and productivity of the soil, and contributes to mitigate climate change by increasing carbon stocks, as well as building resilience and adaptation to the effects of climate change.

Also, by integrating agendas on climate change (adaptation and mitigation), biodiversity, water resources and risk reduction, it allows the achievement of goals and commitments acquired under the environmental conventions regarding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to deforestation and degradation of forests and agricultural practices, which have been established in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the UNFCCC; to achieve Aichi Target 7 on Sustainable Agriculture and Aichi Target 14 and 15 on the Restoration of Ecosystems established under the Strategic Plan 2010-2020 of the CBD; and achieve the National Voluntary Goals to Achieve LDN, established under the UNCCD.

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