Earth Day 2021
A message from the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw
Earth Day 2021 has a starkly simple message: we must make 2021 a pivotal year in efforts to Restore our Earth and build back better from COVID-19.
Building a climate resilient and net-zero world must go hand in hand with recovering from the economic effects of a global pandemic.
The urgency is clear. This year already, we have passed a significant and sobering landmark: humanity has now caused the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere to rise 50 per cent higher than before the Industrial Revolution. Research published last week suggests that just three per cent of the world’s land remains ecologically intact, and many scientists warn we are in the midst of the planet’s sixth great extinction.
Yet there are reasons to hope. The G-20 launched the Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation. The delayed UNFCCC COP 26 happens in November. President Biden fulfilled his pledge to immediately re-join the Paris agreement on taking office, and today he hosts a Leaders Summit on Climate to further galvanize global efforts.
Restoring our planet requires decisive action and ambition on many interlocking issues: addressing climate change, dialling back on consumption, and restoring our land and ecosystems to health. That’s why the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will be launched in June, on World Environment Day.
At the UNCCD, we believe scaling up land degradation neutrality and sustainable land management efforts will be fundamental to building a better world. Healthy land and soil, coupled with secure tenure of land for the most vulnerable, can alleviate food insecurity, reduce migration, and help reverse biodiversity losses. Restoring land can close 90 per cent of the agricultural yield gap, leading to an extra USD 1.4 trillion in agricultural production.
These land based solutions are gaining momentum as low-tech, cheap and readily implemented solutions. They harness indigenous and local knowledge to implement restoration approaches like regenerative agriculture to deliver stable local communities with meaningful and sustainable lives – based on healthy soil and ecosystems.
We can restore land and restore hope, in tandem. Africa’s Great Green Wall is transforming the lives of an entire region. It aims to slow and reverse desertification, reduce the impact, frequency, and intensity of droughts, and boost national and regional economies in the Sahel. By creating a mosaic of green and productive landscapes, it provides stability, livelihoods and a path out of poverty. The GGW is creating new green jobs, harnessing the Sahel’s abundant solar energy to power a future for those most at risk.
This Earth Day, let us reaffirm our will to act on land restoration -at scale, to help humanity recover better, become more resilient, and to safeguard all our futures.