The theme for World Environment Day 2021 is “Ecosystem Restoration” and will see the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Ecosystem restoration can take many forms: Growing trees, greening cities, rewilding gardens, changing diets, or cleaning up rivers and coasts, MINIMIZING WASTE. This is the generation that can make peace with nature. Every year, June 5 is celebrated as WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY by UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM
What is Ecosystem Restoration?
Ecosystem restoration means assisting in the recovery of ecosystems that have been degraded or destroyed, as well as conserving the ecosystems that are still intact. Healthier ecosystems, with richer biodiversity, yield greater benefits such as more fertile soils, bigger yields of timber and fish, and larger stores of greenhouse gases.
Restoration can happen in many ways – for example through actively planting or by removing pressures so that nature can recover on its own. It is not always possible – or desirable – to return an ecosystem to its original state. We still need farmland and infrastructure on land that was once forest, for instance, and ecosystems, like societies, need to adapt to a changing climate.
Between now and 2030, the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate US$9 trillion in ecosystem services. Restoration could also remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The economic benefits of such interventions exceed nine times the cost of investment, whereas inaction is at least three times more costly than ecosystem restoration.
All kinds of ecosystems can be restored, including forests, farmlands, cities, wetlands, and oceans. Restoration initiatives can be launched by almost anyone, from governments and development agencies to businesses, communities, and individuals. That is because the causes of degradation are many and varied, and can have an impact at different scales.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to end poverty, conserve biodiversity, combat climate change and improve livelihoods for everyone, everywhere. These objectives, encapsulated in 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are unlikely to be met unless ecosystem degradation is stopped and ecosystem restoration is undertaken at the immense scale of hundreds of millions of hectares globally.
Currently, there is insufficient political support and technical capacity in both the public and private sectors to invest in the many hundreds of thousands of ecosystem restoration initiatives worldwide that are needed to achieve restoration at such a scale. Not only would such investment contribute to achieving the SDGs, but it would also yield considerable economic returns for a recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and lead to more social, economic, and ecological resilience. Based on data from a wide range of ecosystems, for every dollar spent on restoration, between three and seventy-five dollars of economic benefits from ecosystem goods and services can be expected.
The UN Member States decided to implement a Decade on Ecosystem Restoration to realize these benefits and to ensure that healthy ecosystems play a critical role towards achieving the SDGs by 2030. This UN Decade will inspire and support governments, UN agencies, NGOs, civil society, children and youth, private sector companies, indigenous peoples, farmers, women’s groups, local communities, and individuals globally to collaborate and develop the appropriate skillsets for catalyzing and successfully implementing restoration initiatives across the world.
The support will include: promoting a global movement focusing on restoration; developing legislative and policy frameworks to incentivize restoration; developing innovative financing mechanisms to fund operations on the ground; detailing a values-based imperative to conserve, restore and care for nature; undertaking social and natural science research on restoration in terrestrial, freshwater, estuarine as well as marine environments; monitoring global progress on restoration, and building the technical capacity of restoration practitioners globally.
Although the UN Decade ends in 2030, it aims to create a platform for societies globally to put their relationships with nature on a new trajectory for centuries to come. It is envisaged that this trajectory will include: nature being respected across society; ecosystem restoration taking place over hundreds of millions of hectares and generating millions of new livelihoods; human rights, with a focus on gender equity, youth, local communities, indigenous peoples, and future generations, being central to restoration initiatives; global supply chains and consumption patterns being shifted to protect, sustainably manage and restore nature; long-term scientific research being used to guide restoration initiatives, and the value of nature is a central pillar of national systems that assess economic well-being. Reducing inputs of plastic to the environment must be prioritized through a global multidisciplinary approach.
Mismanaged waste is a major land-based source of plastic pollution that can be reduced through improvements in the life-cycle of plastics, especially in production, consumption, and disposal, through an Integrated Waste Management System.
SOME recommendations for stakeholders to reduce plastic pollution include
- regulation of production and consumption;
- increasing the demand for recycled plastics;
- reducing the use of plastics;
- use of renewable energy for recycling;
- extended producer responsibility for waste;
- improvements in waste collection systems;
- prioritization of recycling;
- use of bio-based and biodegradable plastics; and
- improvement in recyclability
- use of technology, IOT to manage and process
The success of recycling—indeed, its true value in the long term—won’t depend on how much landfill space is saved but on whether or not recycling makes economic sense. To build demand for recycled materials, the government and businesses must not only reinvent themselves but must also reinvent their relationship, especially when it comes to economic problems that neither can solve alone.
The most common reason given for the current economic crisis in recycling is the supply and demand problem.
As times change, one has to take actions to strengthen the commitment for a better environment with our actions.