Tomorrow is the 47th World Environment Day (the very first was held in 1974, which tells us that we’ve been dealing with this issue for a long time).
This one is special. It launches the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Spanning 2021 to 2030, this is a global mission to restore and revive billions of hectares of ecosystems. Saving the planet, saving ourselves.
This is essential work: over the last century, we’ve destroyed half of our wetlands. Half of our coral reefs are gone too, and we might well lose 90% of them by 2030 even if we keep the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. We’ve lost uncountable acres of forests, peatbogs, seagrass meadows and mangroves. When those ecosystems go, they take insects, animals, plants and carbon stores with them. And it’s crucial to note that environmental degradation goes hand in hand with growing inequality.
So there’s a lot of work to do: a lot of land and ocean to repair. A lot of nature to heal. And not a lot of time.
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration is one of the world’s greatest-ever endeavours — this is the chance to take hold of the magnificent world we live in, and save it from destruction. It’s a task that touches every inch of our earth, from the darkest reaches of the sea, to our busy cities and the tops of our mountains.
We might feel overwhelmed by the scale of all this. But the fundamental truth is that change comes from holistic, sustainably-run, locally-empowered projects. And anyway, restoration is good for us. Apart from the bald fact that it gives us a future, it’s also good for our general health and wellbeing (and it actually gives healthy returns on financial investment too).
In other words: we really can make a difference. We just have to do it.
The themes of 2021’s World Environment Day are ‘Reimagine. Recreate. Restore.’ These are about ambition, action, imagination – and they put the era of vague commitments and watered-down plans firmly in the past.
They also have a striking rhyme with our own values of ‘Rebuild, Restore, Renew’. Which makes sense: we share WED’s belief that restoring the planet and social justice are intimately and inextricably linked.
You might ask what we’re doing, apart from supplying 100% renewable electricity.
We set up Rebel Restoration to support brilliant projects that restore ecosystems, remove carbon from the atmosphere and empower local communities. A lot of these are in the UK (we’re particularly keen on restoring peatbogs and planting seagrass meadows), and we also want to plant mangroves overseas.
We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do. We’re sure there will be teething problems and we’ll make mistakes – but we are fully committed to an approach that actually means something. We will do the right thing when there is nobody watching.