El Salvador’s president urges U.N. support for proposed decade of ecosystem restoration

UNITED NATIONS (Landscape News) – A proposal to devote a decade to promoting the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded landscapes worldwide edged a step closer to fruition at the U.N. General Assembly in New York last week.

El Salvador’s President Salvador Sanchez Ceren urged member states to support a U.N. Decade for Ecosystem Restoration from 2021 to 2030, an idea first floated publicly by the country’s environment ministry in March at a Bonn Challenge event in Brazil.

“We would invite this general assembly to consider this initiative in a coordinated manner in order to tackle the ever faster loss of forests, soil degradation, and the degradation of ecosystems which have a negative impact on the well being of 3.2 billion people,” Ceren said in an address.

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.

The worldwide aim overall is to restore more than 2 billion hectares of degraded land worldwide – a footprint larger than South America.

Since March, the vision for a dedicated decade likely to unlock large scale funding has gained momentum. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, promoted the idea in August ahead of a Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) conference in Nairobi, where he called on delegates to support the concept.

Also in Nairobi, Salvador Nieto, executive secretary of the eight country members of Central American Commission for Development and Environment (CCAD) under the Central American Integration System (SICA), announced support.

Most recently, Africa’s environment ministers urged the U.N. General Assembly to support the initiative, stating they would link it with various other official national, regional and international targets, including the African Union Agenda 2063, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals.

Africa is gearing up to meet African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100) targets. AFR100 sets the stage to restore 100 million hectares of forests throughout Africa within the same timeframe as the Bonn Challenge.

MEETING TARGETS

Countries supporting a U.N. Decade of Ecosystem Restoration aim to put landscape restoration at the forefront of national agendas, facilitating 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),” a concept note released by El Salvador states.

Land degradation caused by such human activities as agriculture and resource extraction has negative consequences for at least 3.2 billion people and costs more than 10 percent of annual global gross domestic product in loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services, according to the concept note, which cites a report from the Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

Countries are also working toward establishing Nationally Determined Contributions as part of commitments to hold temperatures in check and prevent further global warming under the 2015 U.N. Paris Agreement on climate change.

MEETING CHALLENGES

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.

The Bonn Challenge event hosted by Brazil in March, 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.

“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,” the statement from El Salvador reports.

Learn more about this topic at the upcoming Global Landscapes Forum conference in Bonn, Germany, Dec. 1-2, 2018. Click here to register.

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