Reimagine World Environment Day

Reimagine World Environment Day

ARTICLE · By Lucy Bedry FLEGT Communications Executive · 08 June 2021

The imperative to instigate effective change and mitigation against the climate emergency must happen now. This year World Environment Day ‘Ecosystem Restoration’ with the theme Reimagine, Recreate and Restore has never been more important. 

The focus of this year’s United Nations World Environment Day on the 5th June was ecosystem restoration to kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration – a global mission to revive billions of hectares around the globe, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea (United Nations). Ecosystem restoration requires preventing, halting, or reversing ecosystem loss, transforming from exploiting nature to healing it and with it.

Restoration required is a global undertaking – an area greater than China or the USA – to enable people to have access to basic human needs including food, clean water and jobs, now and as the climate crisis exacerbates global conditions. Restoring ecosystems results in substantial benefits for all. In some instances, this involves bringing back plants and animals from the brink of extinction to smaller actions of growing trees, greening our cities or rewilding gardens.

For every dollar invested in restoration, a minimum of seven to thirty dollars returns can be expected to society (UN). The theme for this important ecosystem restoration was to:

REIMAGINE. RECREATE. RESTORE.


Reimagine

Business as usual is not compatible with the climate emergency and cannot be returned to as countries recover from the coronavirus crisis. Society must be reimaged and visualised to prioritise sustainability and mitigation methods against the climate crisis.

Recreate

Systems need to be recreated to integrate transformations that rebuild lives and economies favouring the environment, promoting equality through low-carbon, sustainable recovery and preserving biodiversity. Investments into new technologies of scale, nature-based solutions and decarbonisation strategies are possible: “readily-available technological solutions already exist for more than 70 per cent of today’s emissions”, UN, 2019.

Restore

The balance needs to be restored between people and planet to enable a cleaner, resilient world and economies through nature-based solutions, mitigating carbon emissions, reprioritising biodiversity, land restoration, conservation and ecosystem services.


All ecosystems have a role to play: from deserts to forests to reefs to deserts, protecting and home to a wide array of biodiversity and species. Recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic should follow green mechanisms, recognising the importance of our natural world and the protection of vulnerable habitats.

International dialogue from countries, organisations and governments is ramping up in the lead up to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November. Pledges of action, monetary support and target setting instigate some feelings of optimism.

Examples include a pledge of over an £8m boost for international conservation to protect rare wildlife habitats under plans to tackle the global biodiversity crisis; the UK securing historic G7 commitments to tackle climate change and halt biodiversity loss by 2030 last month; the acceleration of the transition to more sustainable land use in the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Dialogue launched by COP26 Presidency and Tropical Forest Alliance and further projects through the Darwin Initiative.

Increasing efforts ahead of COP26 are not just important but necessary under the criteria of the Paris Agreement. Countries agreed to ratchet up their efforts to combat climate change every five years, with strengthened ambitions on mitigation and adaptation.

The UN decade on ecosystem restoration (2021-2030) to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide, clearly signposts the critical importance of the urgent need to restore the planet in the next ten years. It will only succeed if everyone plays a part.

Glasgow will be the turning point of net-zero rhetoric with experts stating that this will not be enough to keep the planet within the 1.5-degree aspirational target of the Paris Agreement and that this goal is probably unachievable. COP is the opportunity to ignite global action while setting clear and ambitious targets with a strong implementation framework.

One can hope that by 2022 World Environment Day, priorities will be focused back on the climate emergency and instigating the changes laid out in the key outcomes and next steps from the COP26 talks in November. We cannot turn back nor halt time. The imperative to instigate effective change and mitigation against the climate emergency must happen now. This is the moment.