Nature for Life: The value of nature in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

Posted On September 22, 2020

To coincide with the 75th UN General Assembly, UNDP and more than 40 partners have created a four-day “Nature for Life Hub”- a virtual space where global and local leaders share stories on the importance of nature for sustainable development. All events showcase nature-based solutions in policy, in practice, in communities, – but most of all, in action.

As I stand ready to hear from political leaders, corporate and finance experts, Indigenous and community leaders, the world’s youth, and cutting-edge thinkers, I am excited to see the  growing momentum around the Summit on Biodiversity,  and the increasing recognition of the fundamental importance of nature-based solutions for sustainable development.

The public attention gained by the Global Biodiversity Outlook and the Living Planet Index Report during their recent launches earlier this month tells us the world is finally waking up to the dire reality that we are facing a planetary emergency, and that the time to take decisive action for nature is now. Since the site’s hashtag, #NatureForLife was first launched three weeks ago, it has garnered more than 60 million impressions.

As we embark on the Decade on Action for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must also reflect on the importance of nature as essential to achieving the 2030 Development Agenda. This is why the first day of the Nature for Life Hub will focus on “The Value of Nature in achieving the SDGs.

Biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, threatening the achievement of the SDGs, especially for the more than two billion people who depend directly on nature for their livelihoods. COVID-19 has further highlighted the importance of the relationship between people, nature, and, prosperity, and shows us how important it is to leave no one behind. This set of sessions takes a closer look at how protecting, restoring and sustainably managing nature can help us achieve the SDGs, especially those related to climate, health, security, water, and prosperity.

First, we must understand the importance of nature for climate. Nearly a quarter of all global greenhouse gases stem from land use, including the conversion of forests into agriculture, destruction of mangrove forests, the draining of peatlands, and unsustainable agricultural practices. However, protecting, restoring and sustainably managing the worlds ecosystems could provide more than a third of our climate mitigation solution.

Second, we must understand the importance of nature for security, health and well-being. Nature buffers us from natural disasters, prevents the next pandemic, provides us with water and nutritious foods, and offers respite from an increasingly urban world. Healthy biodiversity and ecosystems are  essential to our health and wellbeing, and a cornerstone of a “one health approach - a healthy planet is the foundation of healthy communities.

Third, we must understand the importance of nature for water. To ensure that the 7.6 billion people in the world have enough water to drink, grow food, and maintain basic sanitary conditions, we need to conserve, restore and sustainably manage nature.  Yet we are facing a global water crisis, with 1 out of 3 people living without safe drinking water. By 2050, up to 5.7 billion people could be facing some level of water scarcity.

Nature-based solutions, such as those implemented by this year’s Equator Prize 2020 winner Boon Rueang Wetland Forest Conservation Group in Thailand, can help avoid future water shocks. Nature-based solutions can also foster regenerative and sustainable food production systems, such as those promoted by the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) partnership.

Fourth, we must also understand the importance of nature for prosperity. More than a third of humanity – 2.5 billion people – directly depend on nature for their livelihoods, including through fishing, farming and forestry. Moreover, nature provides $125 trillion in assets to humanity. But over half of global GDP ($44 trillion) is potentially threatened by the loss of biodiversity. It is clear that we cannot achieve our global goals of ending poverty and promoting sustainable development unless we ensure healthy and functioning ecosystems for all.

To learn more about how nature underpins the Sustainable Development Goals, and why we must place nature at the heart of sustainable development, we invite you to join us on 24 September at the virtual Nature for Life Hub.