Restoring Nature ‘the Test of our Generation’, UN General Assembly President Says
New York (United Nations) – Stepping up global efforts to combat land degradation is the only way to safeguard food and water security, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ward against future threats to health and the environment, the UN General Assembly President told ambassadors meeting in New York on Monday.
Addressing a high-level dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought, Volkan Bozkir described restoring nature as “the test of our generation”, outlining the cost of inaction.
“Our planet is facing an environmental crisis that encompasses every aspect of the natural world: land, climate, and biodiversity, and pollution on land and at sea”, he said.
“Our existence and ability to thrive in this world is entirely dependent upon how we reset and rebuild our relationship with the natural world, including the health of our land.”
The General Assembly meeting, the first of its kind in a decade, is being held at a time when half of all agricultural land is degraded, threatening livelihoods but also driving extinction and intensifying climate change.
“By 2050, global crop yields are estimated to fall by 10%, with some suffering up to a 50% reduction. This will lead to a sharp 30% rise in world food prices, threatening progress on hunger and nutrition, as well as a myriad of associated development goals.”
“First, countries should adopt and implement Land Degradation Neutrality targets, which revive land through sustainable land and water management strategies, and restore biodiversity and ecosystem functions”, he advised.
As the world embarks on 10 years of action on ecosystem restoration through 2030, Mr. Bozkir said countries should also apply lessons learned over the Decade to Fight Desertification, which concluded last year.
“Land restoration must be at the heart of existing international processes, such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to combat climate change, the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, and COVID-19 recovery and stimulus plans”, he added.
With “unsustainable agriculture” being a main driver of desertification, the Assembly President called for governments to conduct national dialogues on agricultural reform ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit in September.
“Restoring nature is the test of our generation and indeed of this multilateral institution. This is the challenge the UN was born to meet,” he stated.
“If we upscale land action today we can safeguard global food and water security, reduce emissions, conserve biodiversity and guard against future systemic health and environmental risks. Put simply, soil is the solution.”