World Environment Day Propels the Global Community's Urgent Need to Restore the Earth's Ecosystem

5 June 2021

This decade will see a concerted rally of efforts to protect and revive ecosystems all around the world, for the benefit of people and nature, said South Africa's Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Ms Barbara Creecy.

Addressing the 2021 World Environment Day at the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, the Minister said that the restoration of ecosystems means putting efforts to recover degraded or destroyed ecosystems, including conserving remaining intact ecosystems for the continued delivery of valuable services to the people.

It is important to take note that all ecosystems can be restored, be they forests, wetlands or marine. World Environment Day is celebrated annually on 5 June and is the United Nations' principal vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment.

This year's World Environment Day theme of "Ecosystems Restoration" is an extremely appropriate way to continue building the foundation for this United Nations' Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and achieving the SDGs. In the history of humanity, there has never been a more urgent need for all of us to heed this global rallying cry to heal our planet.

South Africa today marks the World Environment Day in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as well as the 25-year cooperation of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). "As South Africa we are therefore proud to be associated with the UN programmes and the work they continue to do in our country and across the world," says Minister Creecy.

Minister Creecy expressed that it is fitting that this dual celebration is hosted here at the National Botanical gardens managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

"SANBI is a long-standing DEFF-UNDP Implementing Partner. In fact, the very first UNDP-supported project in South Africa on the environment was implemented 25 years ago, by SANBI. UNDP had mobilised resources from the Global Environment Facility on behalf of the former Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, for South Africa's first UNDP project which encompassed a 10-country scope, called the Southern African Botanical Diversity Network (SABONET)," said Creecy.

This year's celebrations of the World Environment Day take place concurrently with the launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. The launch of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration in 2021 offers the opportunity to move from commitments to action.

"Together with partners, UN in South Africa is ready to join the movement to conserve and restore our ecosystems, for the sake of future generations," said Nardos Bekele-Thomas Resident Coordinator of UN in South Africa.

When it comes to restoration of ecosystems, every action matters. Be it from the local communities or traditional leadership, government or state entities, civil society organisations, business or individuals. Restoring ecosystems carries substantial benefits for the people. For every dollar invested in restoration, at least seven to thirty dollars in returns for society can be expected. Restoration also creates jobs in areas where they are most needed."

To restore and maintain our natural landscapes the government has invested more than R26 billion since the inception of the Working for Water programme in 1995. In the process more than 3,6 million hectares of land were cleared of invasive alien pants and given an average of around 3 follow up treatments. For the 2021/22 financial year, 66 432 work opportunities will be created, which will benefit 60% women, 55% youth and 2% people living with disabilities.

Over the past 25 years, the DFFE and UNDP have worked on several projects collaboratively in areas of biodiversity, climate change and international waters, land degradation and in particular in collaboration with the Global Environmental Facility (the GEF).

Since 2001, biodiversity projects have dominated the distribution of projects by focal area standing at 50% with 58 projects, followed by climate change mitigation and adaptation at 24% with 28 projects, land degradation at 11% with 13 projects, chemicals and waste management at 4% with 5 projects, international waters at 1% with 2 projects and multi-focal area projects at 9% with 11 projects.

The Global Environment Facility 6th funding cycle has further awarded the country an additional USD6.2 million to implement Bioprospecting/Biotrade projects which span across the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga Provinces.

The project is currently in its implementation phase, and will enhance local and sustainable beneficiation of the African ginger, Aloe ferox, Rooibos, Honeybush, and Pelagonium sidoides value chains in the above mentioned provinces. This particular programme is co-financed by the infrastructure development leg of the Department, which would extend this programme's impact to Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal Provinces.

The Department has led to South Africa having the most comprehensive GEF portfolio in Africa, and among the top globally. It is through such collaboration and solidarity that developing countries can adequately equip themselves to combat climate change.

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment and United Nations Programmes