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UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration

by Liz Clift

The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) has declared 2021 through 2030 the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, as this is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals focused on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water, and biodiversity conservation.

The goal is to unite the world behind the common goal of “preventing, halting and reversing the degradation of ecosystems worldwide.” However, the goal can only be achieved if everyone—which includes not only Member States, but also local governments, the private sector, academic, and individuals come together.

Within the announcement for Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, UNEP lays out some of the benefits of healthy ecosystems by highlighting ecosystem services of various ecosystems, while also highlighting some potential direct economic benefits. The announcement also highlights the importance of securing the rights of rural communities and indigenous peoples, who have long been the custodians of the ecosystems, and building upon their knowledge.

The Decade will aim to accelerate ongoing restoration efforts for farmlands, forests, freshwater, mountains, oceans and coasts, peatlands, and urban areas, including for specific projects such as the Bonn Challenge, which is estimated to cost USD$1T while engaging multiple stakeholders—including those who control financial decisions for Member States and corporations, as well as individuals, such as farmers, traditional knowledge keepers, activists, hobby gardeners, and consumers.

The specific strategies to achieve success are:

1. Empower a global movement—by connecting the actions of many.

2. Finance restoration—through government, international lenders, development agencies, and private businesses.

3. Establish the right incentives—by using subsidies to support restoration with the long-term picture that healthier ecosystems can produce bigger harvests and offer more secure incomes.

4. Celebrate leadership—including Indigenous leadership and celebrating practices and festivals that encourage restoration.

5. Shift behaviors—to encourage restoration-friendly consumption.

6. Invest in research—including how to restore and adapt ecosystems for the future we all face.

7. Build up capacity—by reducing barriers.

8. Celebrate a culture of restoration—through artists, storytellers, producers, musicians, and connectors to join #GenerationRestoration.

9. Build up the next generation—through restoration education and skills for sustainable jobs.

10. Listen and learn—through a survey.