Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me start by thanking the UN General Assembly for organising this dialogue.
We are at the start of the Decade for Ecosystem Restoration. A crucial time to acknowledge that land and soil are precious, finite resources we human beings fully depend on.
Too often and for too long they have been overlooked. And as the climate and biodiversity crises progress, healthy lands and soil will become only more precious.
Over 75% of the Earth’s land is already degraded, due to the pressure we all, as humans, put on it. Unless we reverse this trend land and soil will be an increasing source of conflict, causing displacement and human suffering – even more than is the case already.
Fighting land degradation is a must to ensure food security, protect the livelihoods of millions of people who work the land, as well as guarantee a liveable planet to all humanity.
We have a number of crucial meetings in the next 16 months. The UN Food Systems Summit, as well as Conferences of the Parties on climate, biodiversity, and desertification. Without sustainable land management, we cannot successfully address climate change, reverse biodiversity loss, or deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.
The EU will continue working with international partners to tackle unsustainable production and consumption, and promote land restoration.
We are specifically stepping up our support to local communities and partner governments across the Sahelian Belt, to help build Africa’s Great Green Wall. This inspiring example of cross-border cooperation has already helped restore 15 million hectares of degraded land in Ethiopia and supported farmers in Niger to feed an extra 2.5 million people a year.
Land degradation affects the entire world. Inside the EU, we are increasing action as well. Our Biodiversity and Farm to Fork Strategies are leading the way.
We will make nature restoration legally binding, plant three billion trees by 2030, stimulate deforestation-free supply chains, reduce the use and risk of harmful pesticides, and, overall, protect 30% of Europe’s land and sea. We really want to reach this 30% globally as well.
As we work to build back better from the current pandemic, we must look forward and we must look down. To keep in mind that the ground we walk on is what keeps us walking at all.