UN Environment chief backs proposed U.N. Decade for Ecosystem Restoration

Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, speaks at Global Landscapes Forum. GLF/Pilar Valbuena
23 August 2018

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NAIROBI (Landscape News) – A decade devoted to promoting the rehabilitation of degraded, damaged and destroyed ecosystems would help speed up the race against climate change and biodiversity loss, said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

Solheim made the remarks on Thursday in response to a statement from the government of El Salvador detailing a proposed U.N. Decade for Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

The two-page document was released ahead of the August Global Landscapes Forum conference (GLF) – to be hosted at UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi next week – where the topic is expected to be central to discussions among 800 delegates and thousands more online.

“Ecosystem restoration can counter climate change, poverty and biodiversity loss,” said Solheim, who will speak at the event.

“A U.N. Decade for Ecosystem Restoration would give us an opportunity to accelerate restoration action and UN Environment supports El Salvador and the many other countries who are champions of this idea,” he said.

SEED PLANTED

El Salvador’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources first floated the idea in March at a major International Bonn Challenge event in Foz do Iguacu, Brazil. The ultimate aim is to restore more than 2 billion hectares of degraded land worldwide – a footprint larger than South America.

Since then, the vision has gained momentum and is now officially supported by the eight country members of the Central American Commission for Development and Environment (CCAD) under the Central American Integration System (SICA). Salvador Nieto, CCAD executive secretary will speak at the GLF.

El Salvador is urging the international community to endorse and take forward its proposal to the U.N. General Assembly in New York in September.

“It will be up to the U.N. member states to decide on the decade in the General Assembly,” Solheim said. “UN Environment stands ready to make the decade a success, together with our sister agency, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.”

The goal of countries supporting a U.N. Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 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.

The El Salvador proposal recommends monitoring restoration progress internationally.

“This will translate into a contribution to SDGs 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),” the statement says.

Land degradation caused by such human activities as agriculture and resource extraction is having a negative impact on the lives of at least 3.2 billion people and costing more than 10 percent of annual global gross domestic product in loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, it adds, citing a report from the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

DOUBLING DOWN

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 in an interview in July.

“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, which feeds into targets established by the Bonn Challenge, a global commitment to restore 350 million hectares by 2030 agreed at the 2014 U.N. Climate talks under the New York Declaration on Forests.

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.

“Ecosystem restoration can generate tangible benefits which will increase food and water security, contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation, and contribute to addressing associated risks, such as climate change and migration,” according to the El Salvador statement on the proposed Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

“Investing in ecosystem restoration has proven to generate benefits 10 times the costs of the initial investment, whereas the cost of inaction is at least three times the cost of active ecosystem restoration.”

Find out more about restoration initiatives throughout Africa at the Global Landscapes Forum GLF Nairobi summit, Aug. 29-30, 2018Click here

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