For centuries, world’s forests have been cleared and removed for agricultural or other land uses, often resulting in degraded lands found in almost every country today. As global population increases and climate change threatens ecosystems worldwide, there is an urgent need for more sustainable management of land to help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
As a process of restoring degraded lands and retrieving their economic and environmental productivity, forest landscape restoration is a promising way to achieve desalination of the soils and reduced wind and water erosion. It also helps filtering drinking water and raising the level of groundwater in restored areas and the storage of carbon dioxide in the newly accumulated biomass.
So far, countries in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia pledged to restore close to 3 million hectares of degraded land under the Bonn Challenge, a global effort to restore 350 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, which also count under the ECCA30, a regional initiative to restore 30 million hectares by 2030 in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Countries interested in forest landscape restoration commonly cite the lack of funding as a major impediment for its implementation. This is a particularly acute issue in the light of current COVID-19 outbreak, as funding priorities are expected to shift towards the economic recovery and strengthening and re-building of healthcare systems.
To address the commonly asked question: “what are sources of financing forest landscape restoration?”, the UNECE/FAO Forestry and Timber Section, in cooperation with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), hosted a webinar where representatives of donor countries and key international institutions informed countries interested in forest landscape restoration about existing sources of funding.
Speaking on behalf of the Federal German Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Dr. Michael Krause-Besan, IKI Secretariat, introduced the International Climate Initiative (IKI) project portfolio supporting forest landscape restoration efforts in ODA eligible countries, available through large-scale programmes and thematic/country calls.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) also offers long term financing opportunities under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, informed Mr. Marc Dumas-Johansen. Another potential source of funding presented at the webinar was the Global Environment Facility (GEF), that already dedicated around $350 million in grants towards restoration purposes in its current funding cycle (2018-2022). This info is available in the presentation: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/timber/meetings/2020/20200716/U.Apel_GEF_Sources_of_financning_GEF.pdf.
Speaking on behalf of GEF, Mr. Ulrich Apel underlined that an active pledge under the Bonn Challenge represents an important selection criterion for funding restoration and will be taken into account during the next funding cycle. Mr. Stephen Hart from the European Investment Bank illustrated the financing opportunities for biodiversity and climate adaptation for businesses and cities using Nature-based Solutions, through the bank’s Natural Capital Financing Facility.
In their conclusions, speakers underlined the diversity of financing mechanisms and sources of finance, and the importance of linking restoration efforts to national objectives in order to access finance from climate, biodiversity, sustainable development and the private sector.
World Migratory Bird Day illuminates the dark side of light pollution
Governments, cities, companies, and communities around the world are taking action to address a significant and growing threat to wildlife, including many species of migratory birds – light pollution.
The issue is the focus for World Migratory Bird Day, observed this Saturday, 14 April, under the theme “Dim the Lights for Birds at Night.”
Light pollution is increasing, with artificially lit outdoor areas rising by 2.2 per cent per year from 2012 to 2016, according to one study cited by the Secretariat of the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), a UN environmental treaty.
Currently, more than 80 per cent of the world’s population is estimated to live under a “lit sky”, and the figure is closer to 99 per cent in Europe and North America.
Altering natural patterns
“Natural darkness has a conservation value in the same way as clean water, air, and soil. A key goal of World Migratory Bird Day 2022 is to raise awareness of the issue of light pollution and its negative impacts on migratory birds,” said Amy Fraenkel, the CMS Executive Secretary.
Artificial light alters natural patterns of light and dark within ecosystems, and contributes to the deaths of millions of birds each year.
Light pollution can cause birds to change their migration patterns, foraging behaviours and vocal communication, resulting in disorientation and collisions.
Disorientation and death
Migrating birds are attracted to artificial light at night – particularly when there are low cloud conditions, fog, rain, or when flying at lower altitudes – luring them to dangers in cities.
Birds become disorientated and, as a result, may end up circling in illuminated areas. With their energy reserves depleted, they risk exhaustion, or worse.
“Many nocturnally migrating birds such as ducks, geese, plovers, sandpipers and songbirds are affected by light pollution causing disorientation and collisions with fatal consequences,” said Jacques Trouvilliez, Executive Secretary of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), another UN treaty.
“Seabirds such as petrels and shearwaters are attracted by artificial lights on land and become prey for rats and cats.”
Two years ago, countries that are party to the CMS endorsed guidelines on light pollution covering marine turtles, seabirds, and migratory shorebirds.
The recommendations call for Environmental Impact Assessments to be conducted for projects that could result in light pollution.
Projects should consider the main sources of light pollution at a certain site, the likely wild species to be affected, and facts about proximity to important habitats and migratory pathways.
New guidelines focused on migratory landbirds and bats are currently being developed and will be presented for adoption at a CMS conference next year.
Solutions to light pollution are readily available, said Ms. Frankel. More and more cities worldwide are taking measures to dim building lights during migration phases in spring and autumn, according to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Call to action
World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated twice a year, on the second Saturday in May and October, in recognition of the cyclical nature of bird migration and the different peak migration periods in the northern and southern hemispheres.
It is organized by a collaborative partnership among the two UN wildlife treaties and the non-profit organization, Environment for the Americas (EFTA).
“World Migratory Bird Day is a call to action for international migratory bird conservation,” said Susan Bonfield, the EFTA Director.
“As migratory birds’ journey across borders, inspiring and connecting people along the way, it is our aim to use the two days in 2022 to raise awareness of the threat of light pollution and the importance of dark skies to bird migrations.”
UN focus on plant health, crucial for boosting food security worldwide
On the very first International Day of Plant Health, marked on Thursday, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for more investment in innovation to boost food security, especially for the billions worldwide living close to the bread line.
Plants under threat
Healthy plants have the power to help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development. But even though plants make up 80 per cent of the food we eat, and provide 98 per cent of the oxygen we breathe, threats to their survival in many cases, are piling up.
According to recent data, up to 40 per cent of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases every year, and this affects both food security and agriculture, the main source of income for vulnerable rural communities.
Climate change and human activities are also altering ecosystems and damaging biodiversity while creating new niches for pests to thrive in.
Furthermore, FAO says that protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost effective than dealing with plant health emergencies. That is because once established, plant pests and diseases are often difficult to eradicate, and need to be controlled through sustainable pest and pesticides management.
Human health depends on plants
“On this very first International Day of Plant Health, we reflect on plant health innovations for food security,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, adding that investments are needed in research to find more resilient and sustainable additions to the human diet.
“We need to continue raising the global profile of plant health to transform agrifood systems to be more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable”, he continued.
The protection of plants is essential for people and for the planet, and that is why the UN Food and Agriculture Organization has mapped several priorities for plant health, coinciding with the inaugural Day.
Focusing on sustainable pest management and pesticides through promotion of green and digital plant protection; and creating enabling surroundings for plant health by enhancing the health of soils, seeds, and pollinators, are among the main priorities.
FAO is calling on governments to prioritize plant health and its sustainable management in formulating policies and legislation, and on academia and research institutions to deliver science-based solutions.
Why an International Day?
Having been established as a key legacy of the International Year of Plant Health 2020, the International Day of Plant Health (IDPH) was designated to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development.
Championed by Zambia, it was unanimously adopted in a General-Assembly resolution co-signed by Bolivia, Finland, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tanzania.
Following the first IDPH this year, FAO will organize celebrations for the Day every 12 May at global, regional, national levels, and even potentially, down on a farm, near you.
Climate: World getting ‘measurably closer’ to 1.5-degree threshold
There is a 50:50 chance of average global temperature reaching 1.5 degrees Celcius above pre-industrial levels in the next five years, and the likelihood is increasing with time, according to a new report by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), published on Tuesday in Geneva.
The Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update also reveals a 93 per cent likelihood of at least one year between 2022 to 2026 becoming the warmest on record, thus knocking 2016 from the top spot.
The chance of the five-year average for this period being higher than the last five years, 2017-2021, is also 93 per cent.
The 1.5 °C target is the goal of the Paris Agreement, which calls for countries to take concerted climate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming.
“This study shows – with a high level of scientific skill – that we are getting measurably closer to temporarily reaching the lower target of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” said Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General.
“The 1.5°C figure is not some random statistic”, he added, but “rather an indicator of the point at which climate impacts will become increasingly harmful for people and indeed the entire planet.”
The chance of temporarily exceeding the 1.5°C threshold has risen steadily since 2015, according to the report, which was produced by the United Kingdom’s Met Office, the WMO lead centre for climate update predictions.
Back then, it was close to zero, but the probability increased to 10 per cent over the past five years, and to nearly 50 per cent for the period from 2022-2026.
Mr. Taalas warned that as long as countries continue to emit greenhouse gases, temperatures will continue to rise.
“And alongside that, our oceans will continue to become warmer and more acidic, sea ice and glaciers will continue to melt, sea level will continue to rise and our weather will become more extreme. Arctic warming is disproportionately high and what happens in the Arctic affects all of us,” he said.
The Paris Agreement outlines long-term goals that guide governments towards limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2 °C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase even further to 1.5 °C.
‘Edging ever closer’
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change further states that climate-related risks are higher for global warming of 1.5 °C than at present, but lower than at 2 °C.
“Our latest climate predictions show that continued global temperature rise will continue, with an even chance that one of the years between 2022 and 2026 will exceed 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels,” said Dr. Leon Hermanson of the UK Met Office, who led the report.
“A single year of exceedance above 1.5 °C does not mean we have breached the iconic threshold of the Paris Agreement, but it does reveal that we are edging ever closer to a situation where 1.5 °C could be exceeded for an extended period.”
Last year, the global average temperature was 1.1 °C above the pre-industrial baseline, according to the provisional WMO report on the State of the Global Climate. The final report for 2021 will be released on 18 May.
WMO said back-to-back La Niña events at the start and end of 2021 had a cooling effect on global temperatures. However, this is only temporary and does not reverse the long-term global warming trend.
Any development of an El Niño event would immediately fuel temperatures, the agency said, as happened in 2016, the warmest year on record.
Mali’s withdrawal from G5 Sahel, Joint Force ‘a setback’ for the region
Mali’s decision on 15 May to withdraw from the G5-Sahel group and its Joint Force is “unfortunate” and “regrettable”, a...
First polio outbreak in 30 years declared in Mozambique
Health authorities in Mozambique declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus on Wednesday after confirming that a child in the country’s...
G7’s potential should be utilized positively
The G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, and...
Nations must ‘act together, urgently and with solidarity’ to end crisis of food insecurity
Hunger levels around the world are at “a new high”, the UN chief said on Wednesday, in a call to...
Americas: Rising COVID-19 caseload should be a ‘wake-up call’
COVID-19 rates are on the rise in the Americas, where new infections and fatalities have been steadily increasing over the...
Musings of a journalist – Part 3
The entire idea of writing this is that as journalists we find ourselves finding and scratching other people’s truths. However,...
Saudi religious moderation: the world’s foremost publisher of Qur’ans has yet to get the message
When the religious affairs minister of Guinea-Conakry visited Jeddah last week, his Saudi counterpart gifted him 50,000 Qur’ans. Saudi Islamic...
Southeast Asia4 days ago
Vietnam-US relations and the US-ASEAN Summit
Middle East3 days ago
Iran Gives Russia Two and a Half Cheers
Americas4 days ago
A U.S.-ASEAN summit—a face or a farce
Middle East4 days ago
Ignoring the Middle East at one’s peril: Turkey plays games in NATO
South Asia4 days ago
Sri Lankan economic crisis and the China factor
Intelligence3 days ago
New ISIS Strategy and the Resurgence of Islamic State Khorasan
Economy3 days ago
Possible Impacts of the Russia-Ukraine War on Global Food Trade
South Asia3 days ago
The sizzling “Political Matrix”; What will happen now?