Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss

Forests, desertification and biodiversity2020-07-23T16:02:20-04:00

Nature is critical to our survival: nature provides us with our oxygen, regulates our weather patterns, pollinates our crops, produces our food, feed and fibre. But it is under increasing stress. Human activity has altered almost 75 per cent of the earth’s surface, squeezing wildlife and nature into an ever-smaller corner of the planet.

Around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction – many within decades – according to the 2019 Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service. The report called for transformative changes to restore and protect nature. It found that the health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever, affecting  the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. 

Deforestation and desertification – caused by human activities and climate change – pose major challenges to sustainable development and have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Forests are vitally important for sustaining life on Earth, and play a major role in the fight against climate change. And investing in land restoration is critical for improving livelihoods, reducing vulnerabilities, and reducing risks for the economy.

The health of our planet also plays an important role in the emergence of zoonotic diseases, i.e. diseases that are transmissible between animals and humans. As we continue to encroach on fragile ecosystems, we bring humans into ever-greater contact with wildlife, enabling pathogens in wildlife to spill over to livestock and humans, increasing the risk of disease emergence and amplification.

COVID-19 response

The COVID-19 outbreak highlights the need to address threats to ecosystems and wildlife

In 2016, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) flagged a worldwide increase in zoonotic epidemics as an issue of concern. Specifically, it pointed out that 75 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic and that these zoonotic diseases are closely interlinked with the health of ecosystems.

“In COVID-19, the planet has delivered its strongest warning to date that humanity must change,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen.

In Working With the Environment to Protect People, UNEP lays out how to “build back better” – through stronger science, policies that back a healthier planet, and more green investments.

UNEP’s response covers four areas:

  1. Helping nations manage COVID-19 waste,
  2. Delivering a transformational change for nature and people,
  3. Working to ensure economic recovery packages create resilience to future crises, and
  4. Modernizing global environmental governance.

To prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide, the UN has launched a Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030). This globally-coordinated response to the loss and degradation of habitats will focus on building political will and capacity to restore humankind’s relation with nature. It is also a direct response to the call from science, as articulated in the Special Report on Climate Change and Land of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and to the decisions taken by all UN Member States in the Rio Conventions on climate change and biodiversity, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Work on a new and ambitious post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework is also underway.

As the world responds to and recovers from the current pandemic, it will need a robust plan for protecting nature, so that nature can protect humanity.

Forests

  • Around 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood, including 70 million indigenous people.
  • Forests are home to more than 80 per cent of all terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects.
  • Between 2010 and 2015, the world lost 3.3 million hectares of forest areas. Poor rural women depend on common pool resources and are especially affected by their depletion.
  • Currently, land degradation has reduced productivity in 23 per cent of the global terrestrial area, and between $235 billion and $577 billion in annual global crop output is at risk as a result of pollinator loss.

Desertification

  • Arable land loss is estimated at 30 to 35 times the historical rate
  • Due to drought and desertification, 12 million hectares are lost each year (23 hectares per minute). Within one year, 20 million tons of grain could have been grown.
  • 74 per cent of the poor are directly affected by land degradation globally.
  • Habitat loss and deterioration, largely caused by human actions, have reduced global terrestrial habitat integrity by 30 per cent relative to an unimpacted baseline.

Biodiversity

15.1 By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements

15.2 By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

15.3 By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world

15.4 By 2030, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development

15.5 Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

15.6 Promote fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources and promote appropriate access to such resources, as internationally agreed

15.7 Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products

15.8 By 2020, introduce measures to prevent the introduction and significantly reduce the impact of invasive alien species on land and water ecosystems and control or eradicate the priority species

15.9 By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts

15.A Mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems

15.B Mobilize significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation

15.C Enhance global support for efforts to combat poaching and trafficking of protected species, including by increasing the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities

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