5 June 2021: “Ecosystems Restoration”, the theme of this year’s World Environment Day is one of the most critical issues of our time as we battle the Climate Crisis and the current Covid-19 Pandemic. UN-Habitat looks forward to supporting member states and cities during the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration that starts today. UN-Habitat’s focus is on sustainable urbanization and nature-based solutions are central to our efforts.
It is entirely befitting that Pakistan, with its rich diversity of ecosystems, ranging from some of the highest mountains and glaciers in the world to the Arabian Sea, is the host of today’s global event.
UN-Habitat is committed to making this a “Decade Of Action”.
In order to recover from the pandemic and address the climate crisis, we have no other choice than to heal nature and the planet while we heal ourselves. Ecosystems Restoration is essential for this. Suburban expansion almost always leads to the degradation of natural habitats and ecosystems found within cities. Cities need to minimize habitat destruction and rehabilitate existing habitats to a level of good ecological functioning, both for biodiversity and resilience.
While land-use change is a key driver of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 and climate change, sustainable urbanization can play a central role in ecosystem preservation and restoration. In Africa and Asia, where urbanization is increasing fastest, ensuring that cities are well planned and compact will ensure that they use less energy and natural resources. UN-Habitat’s Urban Planning Lab helps cities to use planned city extensions, to optimize densities and minimize peri-urban land conversion.
To complement this work, our Global Public Space Programme supports city-wide public space assessments and strategies to protect green space. The restoration of urban riverine corridors has been one important result. Increasing green spaces in cities, and better managing their resource consumption and waste, not only makes cities more liveable for people, but also protects biodiversity, and helps to build back degraded ecosystems.
UN-Habitat supports cities and local governments in turning off the tap of pollution. UN-Habitat’s Waste Wise Cities initiative, for example, connects more than 200 cities across the world. Through this network, cities can share their experiences and innovations leading to the replication of waste management solutions suited to local contexts.
UN-Habitat also works with our sister agency, UNEP, in identifying global marine litter “hot-spots” where we support cities to improve their Solid Waste Management. Under a new joint initiative with UNEP – the Go Blue Project, we are working to create a sustainable blue economy in selected coastal towns of Kenya. This aims to establish planning frameworks linking cities and the marine environment and will pilot a “blue carbon” project to restore thousands of hectares of mangroves and seagrass through community engagement, and create hundreds of jobs in waste recycling. It will also design a constructed wetland for wastewater recycling and ecosystem restoration.
In these difficult times, it is more crucial than ever that we reinforce and join our efforts, to strengthen global cooperation to accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement and the New Urban Agenda.
The amount of money invested in ecosystem destruction is 40 times higher than the amount invested in ecosystem restoration. This must change. I would like to invite everyone to join us in committing to play their part, in the realization of the vision we hold for an inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future.