The UN is presently in the midst of its Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a global commitment that UN secretary-general Antonio Gueterres had said is ‘running out of time’.
By Salam Rajesh
An ambitious roadmap to achieve the global vision of a harmonious world with nature by the target year 2050 was deliberated upon, debated and duly framed during the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) at Montreal (Canada) in December 2022. This in short is the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.
The framework broadly aims at halting and reversing biodiversity loss by the target years 2030 to 2050, with four overarching goals to be achieved by 2050. The goals, focused specifically on ‘ecosystem and species health’, define the need to halt human-induced species extinction, sustainable use of biodiversity, equitable sharing of benefits, and a methodology to close the financial gap of 700 billion USD per year.
The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF) is not a legally binding agreement but countries that have signed up to the agreement commit to demonstrating progress in meeting the stated targets outlined in the agreement, and thereto update their commitment to their respective National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans (NBSAPs).
In tune with this global agenda, India’s National Biodiversity Authority worked with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in November last year to discuss and come up with the country’s National Biodiversity Targets. This took place at a national consultation on ‘the updation of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and the adoption of the National Biodiversity Targets in alignment with the GBF’.
Amongst the many thematic deliberations was one that specifically focused on ecosystem restoration which currently is a priority target for global forums functioning under the umbrella of the United Nations. The UN is presently in the midst of its Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030), a global commitment that UN secretary-general Antonio Gueterres had said is ‘running out of time’.
The Global Target 2 under the GBF is focused on ‘Ensuring that by 2030 at least 30 percent of areas of degraded terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems are under effective restoration, in order to enhance biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, ecological integrity and connectivity’.
To achieve the mission, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework is focused on creating ‘Awareness on the indirect and direct drivers of environmental degradation, the promotion of innovative tools and technology for restoration, the inter-state and inter-agency co-operation and facilitation, and in achieving support of urban and rural populations’.
Plunging deep into the deliberation, the national consultation last year did admit that, “Eco-restoration in a most populous, and mega-diverse country like India with enormous diversity of natural ecosystem and habitats is challenging as this subject is in infancy and emerging”.
This pushed the resolution that a well-coordinated and concerted participatory effort with committed financial investments is urgently required to achieve the national goals in line with the global targets. The consultation stressed that “A dedicated scientific institution on ‘eco-restoration’ with state-of-the-art facilities is the need of the hour”.
The consultation further came to the conclusive thinking that ‘National and State level policies, laws, guidelines, rules, schemes and action plans relevant to forest, wildlife, environment, water, wetland, river development, coastal and marine ecosystems, and agriculture need to be developed with due emphasis on the development, implementation, support and monitoring of inbuilt programs towards restoration of degraded ecosystems (terrestrial, inland water, and coastal and marine ecosystems)’.
This comes down to the reasoning that ‘All sectors, implementing agencies, corporate, industries, and local bodies are required to substantially invest on restoration of degraded ecosystems and ensure that at least 30 percent degraded ecosystems (terrestrial, inland waters, and coastal and marine) are under active restoration by the target year 2030 (extendable to 2050 at the most to meet the global target of limiting temperature rise by 1.5 degree Celsius by 2050)’.
On a broad perspective, ‘degraded ecosystems’ relates to ‘the degradation of ecosystems from several underlying causes over a long period of time’. The national consultation therefore opined that, ‘the majority eco-restoration (e.g., inland wetland, coastal and marine ecosystems) invariably requires cooperation, transfer of technology, and financial support from all sources’.
While stressing the need to ‘Plan, adopt and execute resolute actions to enhance and restore ecosystem services and the ecological integrity of degraded ecosystems’, the consultation re-emphasized on the important aspect that ‘the vital spatial and temporal connectivity (landscape level; wildlife corridors; river – longitudinal, vertical, horizontal, and temporal connectivity; and interconnections between land and sea) are restored for enhanced biodiversity values, and ecosystem functions’.
The national consultation advocated for coming up with innovative approaches that incorporate ecosystem-based approaches, nature-based solutions and modern technologies, so as to ‘reduce traditional resource dependence and overexploitation of natural resources by people and industries in general, and promote alternate income generation activities and develop substitutes for ecologically sustainable raw material’.
This concept invariably focuses on the need to re-think on “Human sustainability, social sustainability, economic sustainability and environmental sustainability” if at all a cent percent successful roadmap is to be realized at the end of the target year. Sustainability in all of its forms, whether addressing human needs or for biodiversity loss recovery entails a smart methodology that looks at both the scientific and empirical dimension of ecosystem restoration while partnering with Indigenous peoples and local communities specifically on their traditional knowledge, wisdom and age-old experiences.
Searching for a fool-proof methodology, the national consultation suggested few indicators, such as, the trends in forest cover, the trends in aquatic ecosystems, the trends in mangrove cover and coastal area management, the trends in river water quality, and the trends in afforestation and restoration’ with suggestive methods on ‘combating desertification, species recovery, and the maintenance of fertility in agricultural lands using natural methods and means’.
This is further broken down to ‘Headline indicators’ specifying the area(s) under restoration; ‘Component indicators’ specifying the extent of natural ecosystems by type, and the maintenance and restoration of connectivity of natural ecosystems; and ‘Complementary indicators’ specifying the habitat distributional range, large mammal landscapes, intact wilderness and climate stabilization areas, increase in secondary natural forest cover, priority retention of intact wilderness areas, status of Key Biodiversity Areas, and finally, the Red List Index.
All said and done, the importance of re-working the NBSAPs for all States in the country becomes vital in understanding the present status of ecosystems across all landscapes – mountains, forests, wetlands, freshwater and marine, grasslands and high-altitude meadows. The NBSAPs need to be re-structured, prioritized and made functional in the best sense of the word to achieve the goals stated in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, with of course a reflection on the commitments made in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.