3 June 2010—Restoring lost and damaged ecosystems—from forests and freshwaters to mangroves and wetlands—can trigger multi-million dollar returns, generate jobs and combat poverty according to a new report compiled by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Launched on the eve of World Environment Day (WED), the report draws on thousands of ecosystem restoration projects world-wide and showcases over 30 initiatives that are transforming the lives of communities and countries across the globe.
The report, entitled Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development, underlines that far from being a tax on growth and development, many environmental investments in degraded, nature-based assets can generate substantial and multiple returns.
Speaking at the report launch in Kigali, Rwanda, Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The ecological infrastructure of the planet is generating services to humanity worth by some estimates over $70 trillion a year, perhaps substantially more. In the past these services have been invisible or near invisible in national and international accounts. This should and must change”.
“This report is aimed at bringing two fundamental messages to governments, communities and citizens on World Environment Day and in 2010—the UN’s International Year of Biodiversity. Namely that mismanagement of natural and nature-based assets is under cutting development on a scale that dwarfs the recent economic crisis,” he said.
“Two: that well-planned investments and re-investments in the restoration of these vast, natural and nature-based utilities not only has a high rate of return. But will be central, if not fundamental, to sustainability in a world of rising aspirations, populations, incomes and demands on the Earth’s natural resources,” said Mr. Steiner who was in Kigali, Rwanda the main host for this year’s global WED events.
The report underlines that conserving existing ecosystems is far cheaper than restoration.
Effective conservation, such as that practised in many National Parks and protected areas may cost from a few tens of dollars to a few hundred dollars per hectare.
However, protected areas cover only 13 per cent, 6 per cent and less than 1 per cent of the planet’s land, coastal and ocean areas.
Many important ecosystems fall outside these areas. Restoration costs may be ten times higher than managing existing ecosystems, but still something of a bargain considering the returns in terms of restored nature-based services.
Indeed the report says that compared to loss of ecosystem services, well-planned restorations may provide cost benefit ratios of 3‑75 in terms of return on investment.