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Countries need to deliver on their existing commitments to restore 1 billion hectares of degraded land and make similar commitments for marine and coastal areas.

The fulfillment of these commitments is not simply something that is ‘nice to have’. Restoration is essential for keeping global temperature rise below 2°C, ensuring food security for a growing population and slowing the rate of species extinctions. Humanity is not outside of nature; it is part of it. We need to recreate a balanced relationship with the ecosystems that sustain us.

Unfortunately, we are still going in the wrong direction.

The world’s ecosystems – from oceans to forests to farmlands – are being degraded, in many cases at an accelerating rate. People living in poverty, women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups bear the brunt of this damage, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened existing inequalities. While the causes of degradation are various and complex, one thing is clear: the massive economic growth of recent decades has come at the cost of ecological health.

Ecosystem restoration is needed on a large scale in order to achieve the sustainable development agenda.

The conservation of healthy ecosystems – while vitally important – is now not enough. We are using the equivalent of 1.6 Earths to maintain our current way of life, and ecosystems cannot keep up with our demands. Simply put, we need more nature. The good news is that nature has an extraordinary capacity for renewal. While some ecosystems are approaching a tipping point from which they cannot recover, many others can flourish again if we stop the damage and restore their health, biodiversity and productivity.

Ecosystem restoration delivers multiple benefits.

It is one of the most important ways of delivering nature-based solutions for societal challenges.

• Half of the world’s GDP is dependent on nature, and every dollar invested in restoration creates up to USD 30 dollars in economic benefits.

• Restoring productive ecosystems is essential to supporting food security. Restoration through agroforestry alone has the potential to increase food security for 1.3 billion people. Restoring the populations of marine fish to deliver a maximum sustainable yield could increase fisheries production by 16.5 million tonnes, an annual value of USD 32 billion.

• Actions that prevent, halt and reverse degradation are needed if we are to keep global temperatures below 2°C. Such actions can deliver one-third of the mitigation that is needed by 2030. This could involve action to better manage some 2.5 billion hectares of forest, crop and grazing land (through restoration and avoiding degradation) and restoration of natural cover over 230 million hectares.

• Large-scale investments in dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and water management will make a vital contribution to building resilience to climate change, generating benefits around four times the original investment.

• With careful planning, restoring 15 per cent of converted lands while stopping further conversion of natural ecosystems could avoid 60 per cent of expected species extinctions.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021