Landscape restoration in Cote d'Ivoire (Brice Delagneau)
On the 1st of March 2019, we saw one of the rare moments in history when the entire world comes together and agrees on a joint way forward. The United Nations General Assembly recognized the urgent need to tackle the compounded crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, and passed a resolution to proclaim 2021-2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. With the aim to restore at least 350 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2030 – an area the size of India – the UN Decade is a loud and clear call to action for all of us. And it is a great opportunity for the UN-REDD Programme and its partner countries to build on 10 years worth of relevant experience with safeguards, impactful policies and measures, and attracting private and public investments.
It is high time that we bring more attention to the essential role of nature for a peaceful, fair and prosperous future. Nature can provide more than one third of the solution to climate change, but nature-based solutions such as ecosystem restoration and forest conservation currently receive less than 3 percent of climate finance. Neglecting nature in our implementation of climate solutions means we are also not doing enough to save biodiversity. The double whammy of climate change and biodiversity loss has impacts that go far beyond our economy. If we do not act now, the very foundations of our culture, and our cohesion as a global civilization could be at risk.
How can we turn the tide? While ecosystem restoration is not a silver bullet for our current crisis, it is a useful approach to shift the narrative, from despair to action. Restoration is about active participation at all levels. The restoration of ecosystems can at the same time restore a sense of community, and restore dignity and hope to disadvantaged and marginalized communities around the world. It can provide many young people with a new sense of purpose and opportunity, and help vulnerable communities to adapt to climate change.
To harness the full potential of this UN Decade, we need three key changes, at global and national level:
Investments: public funding needs to crowd more private sector investments into restoration. For the 350 million hectare target, we need an estimated 837 billion USD of public and private investments by 2030. This can be achieved through a mix of shifting subsidies and other fiscal incentives, and public risk capital to attract private investments.
Capacity: we need a huge cadre of young (or young-at-heart) green entrepreneurs, who will need a combination of skills on ecology, social transformation, and sound financial and business sense. There are potentially millions of jobs world-wide, if we can train and help these ‘eco-preneurs’ of the future.
Government leadership: above all, we need Governments to step up. They need to take over the baton now from the citizens who are protesting for better climate protection, more decent jobs, and more equality. There is already a ‘regreening revolution’ underway across degraded landscapes and coastal areas world-wide. But we need Governments to ensure this is going in the right direction, by giving clear policy signals, and setting solid strategies to integrate nature-based solutions into national climate action and sustainable development pathways.
The restoration of ecosystems across the globe, at a significant scale, has the potential to be a big part of the required joint effort of humanity to turn the tide of environmental degradation. We have risen to critical global challenges before, and we can do it again.
Tim Christophersen is the Coordinator of the Freshwater, Land and Climate Branch at UN Environment, based in Nairobi, and Chair of the Global Partnership on Forest and Landscape Restoration. He is also the focal point in UN Environment for preparing the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.