Restore the ecosystem
In 1987, “Our Common Future”, also known as the Brundtland Report, proposed the three main pillars of sustainable development: economic growth, environmental protection and social equality.
A group of deniers, including former US President Donald Trump, disputes the need for coexistence in harmony with nature. They ridiculed the scientific evidence and doubts that the ecosystems of planet Earth, if not managed properly, can run out of water, oxygen, or reach their spatial limits to accommodate new dwellings.
Until last year, many of us ignored warnings of a pandemic. However, badly affected by the Covid-19, we know today that despite global economic development and technological advances, a pandemic can paralyze us.
Unlike the Covid-19, we must not wait for a climate apocalypse to believe that living in disharmony with nature would be catastrophic. Those who have followed the frantic calls for oxygen for Covid patients in India last month can imagine the powerlessness of losing loved ones due to lack of oxygen. Fast forward to the scene, a few decades later the way we consume natural resources beyond the planet may replenish itself, many parts of the world would no longer be livable.
The frantic rush of economic growth without ecosystem restoration may take us to a stage where future generations of humans may have to wear personal oxygen devices to breathe, just as we have now had to adapt to face masks. If we don’t change ourselves, then living on Earth and Mars, or any other planet, could be a similar experience someday. Imagine our future generations drinking water prepared in the laboratory, using synthetic oxygen for breathing, and wearing air-conditioned clothing to ward off the vagaries of the weather.
Scary, isn’t it? This is why the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is launching a decade of “ecosystem restoration” starting today.
Why today? Because today is June 5, and it is World Environment Day (WED). This year Pakistan is selected to be the World Host of WED. I’ll get to that later, but first, let’s see what a decade of ecosystem restoration means? We are only a decade away from the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. UNEP invites us to become #GenerationRestoration and restore our ecosystem for people, nature and climate during this decade; otherwise, most of the Sustainable Development Goals would be missed.
The overexploitation (1.6 times) of natural resources (which the planet cannot replenish) is rooted in economies and systems of governance. The resulting degradation undermines hard-won development gains and threatens the well-being of future generations. From oceans to forests to farmland, the world’s ecosystems are degrading, in many cases at an accelerating rate. People living in poverty, women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups bear the brunt of the damage, according to UNEP, and the Covid-19 pandemic has only worsened existing inequalities.
While the causes of degradation are diverse and complex, one thing is clear: the massive economic growth of recent decades has come at the expense of ecological health. It is not a matter of choosing between developing and conserving natural resource bases. It is about development, “and” environmental conservation, protection, restoration, “and” working for social equity. It is not a zero sum game. We need to address this three-dimensional development goal through our policies and practices. The three are mutually non-exclusive and cannot be treated in isolation.
While warning of the seriousness of the problem, experts also tell us the good news that nature has an extraordinary capacity for renewal. As some ecosystems approach 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.
What does it need to restore nature? UNEP and FAO call on global governments to honor their existing commitments, under the Rio Conventions and the Bonn Challenge, to restore one billion hectares of degraded land and to make similar commitments for marine and coastal areas .
Why should world governments act on this advice? Experts from UNEP and FAO describe that restoration is essential to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, ensure food security for a growing population (restoration through agroforestry can improve food security food of 1.3 billion people) and slow the rate of species extinction. In fact, it is one of the most important ways of providing nature-based solutions to societal challenges. Let’s see how.
Half of the world’s GDP depends on nature, and every dollar invested in restoration generates up to $ 30 in economic benefits. Restoring marine fish populations to achieve maximum sustainable yield could increase fish production by 16.5 million tonnes, or an annual value of USD 32 billion.
Actions that prevent, arrest and reverse degradation are necessary if we are to keep global temperatures below 2 ° C. Such actions can provide a third of the mitigation needed by 2030. This could involve measures to better manage some 2.5 billion hectares of forest, cropland and pasture (through restoration and avoiding degradation) and restoration of the natural cover over 230 million hectares.
Additionally, with careful planning, restoring 15 percent of converted land while halting further conversion of natural ecosystems could prevent 60 percent of expected species extinctions.
It is not governments alone that should take care of the ecosystem. The call for the restoration of ecosystems is launched so that we all play our part. Restoration activities can be carried out in a backyard, municipal park, river valley, national forest, or globally threatened ecosystem. This means that everyone can get involved.
Let me also refer to the honor that the United Nations system has bestowed on Pakistan: to be the global host of World Environment Day this year. This is in recognition of our latest efforts to restore ecosystems, especially our efforts to reforest through billions (and now ten billion) of tree plantations. Referring to the Prime Minister’s personal attention to this planting campaign, UNEP specifically mentioned that natural restoration in countries like Pakistan, China and Costa Rica has been driven by political will.
However, political will without financial resources would not help us achieve the goals of the Decade of Restoration of the United Nations. Like many other developing countries, Pakistan is one of the least polluters and carbon emitters in the world. Under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capacities”, countries like Pakistan need the help of the developed world (whose share of global CO2 emissions is much larger) to move the agenda forward. catering.
Globally, public and private financial institutions (including bilateral and multilateral development partners) and regulators should, in line with the UN call, develop and strengthen instruments and mechanisms to ensure that financial flows support restoration efforts.
Domestically, we will need to be careful not to jeopardize our environmental stability and sustainability while pursuing economic growth. Otherwise, our growth would not be clean and green. It goes without saying that even clean and green economic growth is only sustainable if it supports social equity, the third pillar of sustainable development.
The writer heads the Sustainable Development Policy Institute.