‘Govs must include ecosystem restoration in pandemic recovery plans’

Nairobi/Rome, Jun 3 (FN Bureau) United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) have urged Governments to “ensure that their COVID-19 recovery plans incorporate significant allocations for ecosystem restoration” as a central component to delivering a green, sustainable and fair recovery. In a joint report #GenerationRestoration: Ecosystem restoration for People, Nature and Climate, released in a virtual press conference the two UN bodies said, “The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for generations. Yet this crisis has also demonstrated the power of international cooperation and provided us with an opportunity to steer away from our current destructive trajectory. To put countries on a path that is green, sustainable and fair, national governments must include ecosystem restoration in their pandemic recovery plans. This decade can serve as a launchpad to accelerate the transformative changes we need to combat the climate crisis, prevent mass extinctions and build social and economic resilience.”

The UN has declared this decade as UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. “This report presents the case for why we must all throw our weight behind a global restoration effort. Drawing on the latest scientific evidence, it sets out the crucial role played by ecosystems, from forests and farmland to rivers and oceans, and it charts the losses that result from a poor stewardship of the planet,” UNEP Executive Director, Inger Andersen and FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, wrote in the report’s foreword. “Degradation is already affecting the well-being of an estimated 3.2 billion people – that is 40 percent of the world’s population. Every single year we lose ecosystem services worth more than 10 percent of our global economic output,” they added, stressing that “massive gains await us” by reversing these trends.

The report highlighted the facts that around one third of the world’s farmland is degraded, about 87 per cent of inland wetlands worldwide have disappeared since 1700, and one third of commercial fish species are overexploited. Degradation is already affecting the well-being of an estimated 3.2 billion people – that is 40 per cent of the world’s population. Every single year, we lose ecosystem services worth more than 10 per cent of our global economic output. “If we can manage to reverse this trend, massive gains await us. Reviving ecosystems and other natural solutions could contribute over one third of the total climate mitigation needed by 2030. Restoration can also curb the risk of mass species extinctions and future pandemics. Agroforestry alone could increase food security for 1.3 billion people,” the report said. Currently, only about 18 per cent of recovery stimulus plans can be characterized as ‘green’, it added,

Underlining benefits of ecology restoration the report said that Ecosystem restoration creates livelihood opportunities. Shifting towards investment in ecosystem restoration can be a powerful means of job creation, supporting economic recovery at the same time as rebuilding natural capital. “The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the need for a holistic approach to the human and ecosystem health crisis, one that unites experts from epidemiology and public health to ecology and social science. Restoration on a global scale requires sustained investments. But there is growing evidence that it more than pays for itself. ‘Restoring coral reefs to good health by 2030 could yield an extra USD 2.5 billion a year for both Mesoamerica and Indonesia; having doubled its forest cover since the 1980s, Costa Rica has seen ecotourism grow to account for six per cent of GDP,” the report further stated.