Countdown day 3 – SDG 15: Life on Land


“Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned, the last fish has been caught will we realize that we cannot eat money.” (Cree Indian Proverb)

As reaffirmed by the Rio+20 Outcome document, planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home.  The document strengthens the importance of the connection between people and planet, and states that in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature. Three years later, this vision is being reinforced in the Post-2015 Agenda through its Goal 15, which announces to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.”

In an increasingly technological world, we sometimes take the environment, particularly the land, for granted. Terrestrial Ecosystems including land, forests and biodiversity provide food, fibre, fuel, livelihoods, shelter and income to more than 2.7 billion people who survive on less than US$ 2 a day[i].  And these services do not occur in a vacuum – they are influenced and linked to water availability and are shaped by how we consume and produce – whether for our own individual use or for income, on a small-scale or a large scale.  Our current patterns of use and consumption are unsustainable. For a long time, we failed to address key barriers, the absence of an effective governance system for making and implementing decisions on matters affecting biodiversity and ecosystems – forests and land –   and the failure of markets to reflect the real value of ecosystem goods and services, or the real costs of losing them. Ecosystems degradation is exacerbated by the effect of Climate Change with direct impact on biodiversity loss, desertification and the livelihoods of people who depend on nature for survival.

Though we rely on forests, for fuelwood, for medicines, for water production, as a carbon sink and a buffer against the impact of weather and extreme climate, we still consume almost 13 million hectares of this precious resource per year – often at a rate that is not commensurate with nature’s ability to regenerate the resource.  Though some countries like Brazil and Mexico have been able to reverse deforestation trends, much more is still needed to sustainably management forest ecosystems in ways that are good for the economy as well as for people, especially the poor.

Did you know that?

  • Over 60% of ecosystems and their services upon which we rely are degraded, overexploited, or already lost.
  • Almost 30% of Earth’s available land, including our forests, has been converted to urban areas or cropland.
  • Nearly 80% of wastewater from cities, towns and industries is discharged directly untreated into water bodies.
  • Global animal populations have decreased by over 50% in just the past 40 years, in part as a result of the illegal poaching and trade of animals.
  • 6 billion people worldwide directly depend on forests, including over 10 million people employed in the formal forest sector
  • The earth’s soil provides over US$16 trillion worth of ecosystem services each year.
  • Three-quarters of the top global commercial prescription drugs contain components derived from plants.[ii]

This week, scientists and representatives from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) meet at the World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa, to share the latest research (e.g. on socio-economic development, resilience, integrated land use, product innovation, forest monitoring and improved governance), and to advance Sustainable Forest Management (SFM), including the role of gender, in the context of understanding needs and solutions for transformative change.  As this important event happens just in advance of the UN SDG Summit later this month, lets commit to a new pathway and say yes to deforestation-free timber, palm oil, food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and fibres!

Innovation will be needed to contribute to the achievement of the Convention of Biological Diversity with its Aichi Targets, as well as the SDG 15. As an example, UNDP supports this goal through its Global Ecosystems and Biodiversity Framework 2012-2020, which seeks to harness the positive opportunities provided by biodiversity and natural ecosystems as a catalyst for sustainable development.

See RIO+ Centre’s work on Climate-Smart Agriculture and Gender, and our contribution to this years’ Global Soil Week. Get to know the other Sustainable Development Goals as well:

Life on land is valuable and we are part of this biodiversity chain! Let’s respect our Mother Earth!

[i] UNDP: Biodiversity for Sustainable Development: Delivering Results for Asia and the Pacific (2014)
[ii] UN TST Issues Briefs (2014)

4 Comments on “Countdown day 3 – SDG 15: Life on Land

  1. Pingback: Countdown day 16– SDG 2: Zero Hunger | Rio+ Centre

  2. Pingback: Countdown to the Sustainable Development Summit – SDG 2: Zero Hunger | Zero Hunger Challenge

  3. Pingback: There is more at risk than the climate | Rio+ Centre

  4. Pingback: There is more at risk than the climate | Cannabit

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