Against a backdrop of environmental crisis, the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a chance to revive the natural world that supports us all.
But scientists say that these next 10 years will count most in the fight to avert climate change and the loss of millions of species.
The goal is to build a “restoration generation” of young folks, such as is happening with the Global Regeneration Team.
Here are 10 actions in the strategy of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration:
1. Empower a global movement
The UN Decade aims to stop and reverse the destruction and degradation of billions of hectares of ecosystems, from lush forests threatened by wildfires to agricultural soils so eroded that they may only carry a few more years of harvests. It is a daunting task, made more complicated by the diversity of ecosystems and the threats they are facing. No single entity can steer the course in this endeavour. The UN Decade thus connects and empowers the actions of the many. Groups and individuals can get informed about restoration opportunities in their area, joining initiatives already underway, or start their own.
2. Invest in restoration
Restoration takes resources. Organizations driving activities on the ground are often underfunded and face financial insecurity. While the benefits of restoration far outweigh the costs, it can only happen with long-term financing. Governments, international lenders, development agencies, the private sector and individuals will have to ramp up their support.
3. Set the right incentives
In the long-term, healthier ecosystems can produce bigger harvests, more secure incomes and a healthier environment. But caring for nature can also mean foregoing some of the financial gains of less sustainable practices. There are ways to change this by incentivizing restoration activities and reducing subsidies that finance harmful practices, in the agriculture and fishing industries, for example.
4. Celebrate leadership
Over the past years, we have witnessed incredible momentum around restoration. Campaigns to plant trillions of trees have captured the imagination of many communities. Under the Bonn Challenge, more than 60 countries have committed to bringing 350 million hectares of forest landscapes back to life. Indigenous peoples have acted as defenders of their ecosystems for generations. The UN Decade will celebrate leadership and encourage others to step up.
5. Shift behaviors
Deforestation, the depletion of fish stocks and the degradation of agricultural soils are all caused by global consumption patterns. The UN Decade will work with all partners to identify and encourage restoration-friendly consumption. This can range from changes in diets to promoting restoration-based products.
6. Invest in research
Restoration is complex. Practices that work in one ecosystem may have adverse impacts in another. As the climate changes, new uncertainties arise. Returning to a former state may not be desirable as hotter temperatures or shifting rainfall call for more resilient plants and crops. Scientific understanding of how to restore and adapt ecosystems is still developing. Considerable investments are needed to identify the best practices to restore our planet – one plot at a time.
7. Build capacity
Thousands of conservation and restoration initiatives are already underway. The UN Decade will be fuelled by their vision, expertise and dedication. However, practitioners often face barriers that keep them from taking their projects to scale. Other critical sectors, such as finance, require more data and insights to make informed decisions. The UN Decade’s strategy seeks to build the capacity of marginalized groups that stand to lose most from the destruction of ecosystems, such as indigenous peoples, women and youth, to take an active role in restoration.
8. Celebrate a culture of restoration
The power to revive our environment does not lie only with governments, experts and practitioners alone. Healing the planet is a cultural challenge. The UN Decade’s strategy, therefore, calls on artists, storytellers, producers, musicians and connectors to join the #GenerationRestoration.
9. Build up the next generation
Youth and future generations are most impacted by the current rapid destruction of ecosystems – they also stand to benefit the most from a restoration economy. The UN Decade’s strategy links the wellbeing of youth and the goals of restoration. Education for restoration will turn today’s children into ecosystem ambassadors and provide skills for sustainable jobs.
10. Listen and learn
Restoring ecosystems is not an easy task. So, the United Nations Environment Programme earlier this year surveyed conservationists, financiers and the general public in an effort to identify the barriers to restoration and spur grassroots action. Check out the results of the survey for pointers on how you can get restoration programs up and running in your area.
The United Nations General Assembly has declared the years 2021 through 2030 the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Decade is designed to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. This global call to action will be launched on June 5, World Environment Day.
The UN Decade will draw together political support, scientific research and financial muscle to massively scale up restoration with the goal of reviving millions of hectares of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Photos courtesy of UNEP.