The United Nations was determined not to give up its leading role in the fight against climate change. But then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which paralyzed the world. “The Covid-19 pandemic has spoiled many plans, including the UN’s ambitious plan to make 2020 a great year for our support for nature,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last month.
He pointed out that this ambition has now shifted to 2021 and will entail a number of important international commitments. Decisions must be made about the biodiversity crisis, ocean protection, sustainable transport and our food systems that need to change if we are to better coordinate food production and consumption around the world. “The effects of the current health crisis are slowing efforts to eradicate poverty and jeopardizing food security,” Guterres said.
“The close interdependence of efforts in these areas with human health is now fully understood. The pandemic has made it visible to all,” said Professor of Agricultural Sciences Luca Montanarella. In 2018 he participated in Pioneering Report on land degradation mandated by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
According to him, UN plans to review, restore and expand degraded ecosystems are the main solution. But these plans now must be carried out consistently. There is a high risk of falling back work as usualHe says solutions do not solve the problem.
He is counting on the younger generation to save the planet, but to do so, he must be given the right powers. He asks, “Are we willing to hand some decision-making power to them?” “The first signs of the consequences of the epidemic are not very promising, because the highest increases in unemployment rates are observed among women and young people.”
Myrna Ines Fernandez is someone who wants to encourage the younger generation to take responsibility. She is a member of the Steering Committee of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network (GYBN) and co-founder of its Bolivian chapter, Kaaijayu-GYBN. She notes that environmental degradation is so devastating, “that our generation witnessed the birth of concepts such as the Anthropocene and the ‘planetary frontier’.”
Children and young people face psychological problems related to environmental concerns. We are aware that the loss of species and ecosystems has reached a level that threatens the integrity of the biosphere and our life support systems.” According to her, it is clear: “We do not see enough political will to change this situation.”
World leaders need courage
“We need world leaders who dare to address the root causes of many of the environmental crises we face today: the ill-considered and unsustainable way we extract resources, how we produce and consume nature.”
“We young people can play multiple roles: spread this message and get more people to join the global youth movement, demand bold action from our governments, or bring about change through leadership by example. Young people have the power to bring innovative solutions to the table. “
The United Nations notes that the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) aims to halt and prevent the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and ocean. This is also necessary to eradicate poverty, combat climate change and prevent the mass extinction of species. How feasible is this goal? And can it still get worse?
Montanarella: “Ecosystem restoration must go hand in hand with broad social inclusion programs that ensure sustainable employment and livelihoods for the world’s population. Otherwise, it is doomed to failure.”
Fernandez: “The goal of the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration is very ambitious and it will be difficult to achieve in just ten years. Effective and complete restoration of ecosystems is a process that can take decades. However, it is very important that we have this goal, because it guides efforts To prevent further degradation of ecosystems and to begin efforts to restore already destroyed ecosystems.
“I think there is a very high risk of failing to misuse concepts related to recovery, such as budget, net zero / no net loss approach and the so-called Nature-based solutions.
“Without appropriately defined safeguards for biodiversity and human rights, poor implementation of these ecosystem restoration strategies can lead to an increase in monoculture, offset and greenwashing programmes.
Thus, countries and companies that want this decade to be a turning point, have to adhere to strict safeguards.
What are your concerns about the findings in the IPBES report on land degradation and soil restoration?
Montanarella: “The report is very clear on the social and participatory dimension of land degradation. Land is the basis of our existence on this planet, so land must be protected. Our consumption habits as well as micro and macro economic developments are the main causes of land degradation. These need to be addressed if we are to reverse the current negative trend. Fortunately, we can do a lot if we want to start from our individual lifestyle and food habits.”
Fernandez: “I believe the Platform’s report is an important tool for policy makers to understand the scale and complexity of land degradation around the world and take appropriate actions to address its causes and develop strategies for recovery.
“The main findings of the report can help set national targets to combat land degradation and restore ecosystems. In my country, Bolivia, more than 5 million hectares of valuable ecosystems were lost in the Chiquitano Forest in 2019 due to wildfires.
After these fires, many approaches were put forward to restore the devastated ecosystems. Unfortunately, many of these initiatives lack a solid scientific basis and can do more harm than good. For example, it can lead to the introduction of invasive species, create more space for monocultures, or change the structure of the forest.
This is why the insights presented in this report are so important. Provides an overview of the science and expertise available in the field of land degradation and restoration. It is therefore critical that these ideas be shared by those implementing land restoration and land degradation control strategies at the national level.”