The world is faced with a dilemma of whether to reap the benefits of land restoration now or continue on the disastrous path that has led to triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity and pollution. No one can deny that investing in land restoration to combat desertification, soil erosion, and loss of agricultural production is a win-win solution. In reality it is a win for the environment, climate. economy, and for the livelihoods of local communities.
In the Global Land Outlook report, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) points out that Land restoration is a power and cost-effective sustainable development tool. The report sets out the rationale, enabling conditions, and diverse pathways by which countries and communities can design their tailored land restoration agenda.
In this background, world leaders are meeting at the 15th session of the UNCCD from 9-20 May 2022. The theme ‘Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity’ is a call to action to ensure land, which is the lifeline on this planet, will also benefit present and future generations. The Conference will focus on the restoration of one billion hectares of degraded land between now and 2030, future-proofing land use against the impacts of climate change, and tackling escalating disaster risks such as droughts, sand and dust storms, and wildfires. In the meeting, UNCCD deputy secretary general Amina Mohammed said, “We are faced with a crucial choice. We can either reap the benefits of land restoration now or continue on the disastrous path that has led us to the triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity and pollution.”
- Humans have already transformed more than 70% of the Earth’s land area from its natural state, causing unparalleled environmental degradation and contributing significantly to global warming Poor rural communities, smallholder farmers, women, youth, indigenous peoples, and other at-risk groups are disproportionately affected by desertification land degradation and drought
- COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way decision makers, businesses, and civil society see the links between the environment and human health. The annual cost of future pandemics could be as much as USD 2 trillion – for just 1% of that cost, the world could prevent pandemics at their source by protecting and restoring nature.
- Conserving, restoring, and using our land resources sustainably is a global imperative: one that requires moving to a crisis footing
- Land restoration is essential and urgently needed. It must be integrated with allied measures to meet future energy needs while drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, address food insecurity and water scarcity while shifting to more sustainable production and consumption, and accelerate a transition to á regenerative, circular economy, that reduces waste and pollution.
- The global extent of land degradation is estimated at between 20-40% of the total land area, directly affecting nearly half of the world’s population and spanning the world’s croplands, dry lands, wetlands, forests, and grasslands.
- Land is the operative link between biodiversity loss and climate change, and therefore must be the primary focus of any meaningful intervention to tackle these intertwined crises.
- Restoring degraded land and soil provides the most fertile ground on which to take immediate and concerted action
- Land and ecosystem restoration will help slow global warming and reduce the risk scale frequency, and intensity of disasters (e.g., pandemics, drought, floods), and facilitate the recovery of critical biodiversity habitat and ecological connectivity to avoid extinctions and restore the unimpeded movement of species
- Globally food systems are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, and are the single greatest cause of terrestrial biodiversity loss.
- Modern agriculture has altered the face of the planet more than any other human activity -from the production of food, animal feed, and other commodities to the markets and supply chains that connect producers to consumers.
- Making food systems sustainable and resilient would be a significant contribution to the success of the global land, biodiversity, and climate agendas.
- Land restoration is about creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for people -small-scale farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities, businesses and entrepreneurs, women and youth – to boost incomes, secure food and water supplies, and make individuals and communities less vulnerable.
- More inclusive and responsible governance can facilitate the shift to sustainable land use and management practices by building human and social capital
- Increased transparency and accountability are prerequisites for integrated land use planning and other administrative tools that can help deliver multiple benefits at various scales while managing competing demands.
- Limited land rights, coupled with traditions, customs, or religious norms, can prevent women and girls from participating in and benefiting from restoration activities.
- Gender-responsive land restoration is an obvious pathway to reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition Indigenous peoples and local communities represent a vast store of human and social capital that must be respected and embraced to protect and restore natural capital.
- Redirecting public spending towards regenerative land management solutions offers a significant opportunity to align private sector investment with longer-term societal goals – not only for food, fuel, and raw materials, but also for green and blue infrastructure for drought and flood mitigation, renewable energy provision, biodiversity conservation, and water and waste recycling.
- Ambitious land restoration targets must be backed by clear action plans and sustained financing.
- Countries that are disproportionately responsible for the climate, biodiversity, and environmental crises must do more to support developing countries as they restore their land resources and make these activities central to building healthier and more resilient societies.
- Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030 is at the heart of the land restoration agenda and key to achieving many Sustainable Development Goals.
- Greater investments in human and social capital will help maximize the impact of financial capital when undertaking land restoration