June 05 2021

Since 1974, World Environment Day has been celebrated every year on 5 June, engaging governments, businesses and citizens in an effort to address pressing environmental issues.


For too long, we have been exploiting and destroying our planet’s ecosystems. Every three seconds, the world loses enough forest to cover a football pitch and over the last century we have destroyed half of our wetlands. As much as 50 per cent of our coral reefs have already been lost and up to 90 per cent of coral reefs could be lost by 2050, even if global warming is limited to an increase of 1.5°C.

Ecosystem restoration means preventing, halting and reversing this damage – to go from exploiting nature to healing it. This World Environment Day will kick off the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, a global mission to revive billions of hectares, from forests to farmlands, from the top of mountains to the depth of the sea.

Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change and stop the collapse of biodiversity.


  • Restoration and other natural solutions can deliver one third of the mitigation needed by 2030 to keep global warming below 2C while also helping societies and economies adapt to climate change. (Griscom et al., 2017Kapos et al., 2019)
  • Restoring 15% of converted lands in the right places could prevent 60% of projected species extinctions. (Strassburg et al., 2020)
  • Ecosystem restoration contributes to the achievement of all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals by their 2030 target date, including the elimination of poverty and hunger. (IRP, 2019)


  • Half of the world’s GDP is dependent on nature and every dollar invested in restoration creates up to 30 dollars in economic benefits. (Verdone and Seidl, 2017)
  • Forests provide drinking water to one-third of the world’s largest cities; they also support 80%, 75% and 68% of all amphibian, bird, and mammal species, respectively. (HLPE, 2017Vié, Hilton-Taylor and Stuart, 2009)
  • At least 2 billion people depend on the agricultural sector for their livelihoods, particularly poor and rural populations.(WRI, 2019)
  • Peatlands store nearly 30% of global soil carbon.(Scharlemann et al., 2014)
  • Street trees provide a reduction of around 0.5 to 2.0° C in summer maximum air temperatures, benefiting at least 68 million people.  (MacDonald et al., 2016)


  • Ecosystem degradation is already affecting the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people – 40% of the world’s population. (IPBES, 2018)
  • Every year, the world loses 10 million hectares of forests – an area the size of the Republic of Korea, or twice the size of Costa Rica. (FAO and UNEP, 2020)
  • Soil erosion and other forms of degradation are costing the world more than $6 trillion a year in lost food production and other ecosystem services. (Sutton et al., 2016)
  • Approximately 30% of natural freshwater ecosystems have disappeared since 1970.
  • One third of global fish stocks are overexploited, up from 10% in 1974.(FAO, 2020)


  • Around $10 trillion in global GDP could be lost by 2050 if ecosystem services continue to decline.(Johnson et al., 2020)
  • Land degradation could reduce global food productivity by 12%, causing food prices to soar by up to 30% by 2040.  (ELD, 2015)
  • Up to 700 million people are predicted to migrate because of land degradation and climate change by 2050. (IPBES, 2018)
  • The decline in soil fertility in maize fields costs US farmers an estimated half a billion dollars per year in extra fertilizer. (Jang et al., 2020)
  • Ecosystem degradation can increase contact between humans and wildlife and has been linked to outbreaks of diseases. (HLPE, 2017)


  • Opportunities for restoration can be found on 2 billion hectares of deforested and degraded forest land worldwide – an area larger than South America.(WRI, 2011)
  • Meeting the Bonn Challenge goal of restoring 350 million hectares of degraded and deforested lands around the world could create up to $9 trillion in net benefits.(Verdone and Seidl, 2017)
  • Restoration through agroforestry alone has the potential to increase food security for 1.3 billion people.(Smith et al., 2019)
  • Restoring coral reefs in Mesoamerica and Indonesia could deliver an additional $2.5–2.6 billion in ecosystem service benefits per year. (ICRI, 2018)
  • Restoration of forests and other watershed ecosystems could save water utilities in the world’s largest cities $890 million each year in water treatment costs.(Shemie and McDonald, 2014)

World Environment Day 2021 will see the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration: A global rallying cry for everyone – from governments to corporations and citizens – to do their part in healing our ailing planet.

The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is a rallying call for the protection and revival of ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature. It aims to halt the degradation of ecosystems, and restore them to achieve global goals. Only with healthy ecosystems can we enhance people’s livelihoods, counteract climate change, and stop the collapse of biodiversity.

The UN Decade runs from 2021 through 2030, which is also the deadline for the Sustainable Development Goals and the timeline scientists have identified as the last chance to prevent catastrophic climate change.

The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed the UN Decade following a proposal for action by over 70 countries from all latitudes. View the resolution here.

Led by the United Nations Environment Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The UN Decade is building a strong, broad-based global movement to ramp up restoration and put the world on track for a sustainable future. That will include building political momentum for restoration as well as thousands of initiatives on the ground.

Through communications, events and a dedicated web platform, the UN Decade will provide a hub for everyone interested in restoration to find projects, partners, funding and the knowledge they need to make their restoration efforts a success.

Find out how you can take part in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration


This is our moment.

We cannot turn back time. But we can grow trees, green our cities, rewild our gardens, change our diets and clean up rivers and coasts. We are the generation that can make peace with nature.

Let’s get active, not anxious. Let’s be bold, not timid.

Join #GenerationRestoration

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