Restore land to sustain life

COP14: 2-13 September New Delhi, India

 

Nearly 6 000 participants from all over the world took part in UNCCD COP14. The Parties to the Convention agreed on the actions each will take over the next two years and beyond to get us on a sustainable development path. 

 

The UNCCD COP 14 ended on 13 September 2019, after ten days of meetings, 11 high-level, 30 committee and over 170 stakeholder meetings, 44 exhibitions and 126 side events. The Conference adopted the Delhi Declaration in which parties expressed commitment for a range of issues, including gender and health, ecosystem restoration, taking action on climate change, private sector engagement, Peace Forest Initiative and recovery of 26 million hectares of degraded land in India.

UNCCD COP14 agreed on 36 decisions to ramp up and elaborate further action on the ground to ensure that the Convention’s goals for 2018-2030 are achieved. At the closing of COP14, UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw shared these takeaway messages:

  • Land restoration is the cheapest solution to climate change and biodiversity loss
  • Land restoration makes business sense if regulations and incentives to reward investment are in place
  • Drought preparedness and response are critical in the face of climate change
  • To put people first is to ensure gender balance, engage youth, secure land rights

Read the closing statement of the Executive Secretary.

Highlights of the official conference agenda

People first

The health and well-being of 3.2 billion people is directly or indirectly impacted by desertification and land degradation. Land degradation and drought reduce the area of productive land. At the same time, urban expansion is consuming more and more prime agricultural land. There is an urgent need for more effective land use policies. But this will require a policy environment that engages with people – local communities, indigenous peoples, men, women, youth – and is responsive to their needs on issues such as land rights, urban planning and land management decisions. What innovations have emerged can be scaled up to address these critical issues and create an environment where people and species thrive?

Security and Stability

Healthy land is for some the only form of capital that they have. It is a natural storage for fresh water. When degraded, land loses these functions. Close to half of the global population is living in potentially water scarce areas. As the livelihoods, including jobs that are based on natural resources, become increasingly precarious, young people are left with few prospects for work and survival in the rural areas. Land degradation could force millions of people to migrate. How and where is land degradation linked to and helping to drive instability and insecurity, and what can be done to turn the situation around?

Turning plans into action

Over 100 countries have established their land degradation neutrality targets. Some 70 countries that suffer droughts are participating in the UNCCD’s Drought Initiative to improve their preparedness, management and response to drought. Are these actions enough? Is there an indicator of drought vulnerability that could enhance these changes? What further actions are needed? 

Enhancing Resilience

The land-based solutions envisioned for implementation under LDN could contribute up to 30 percent of the emissions gap needed to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target under the Paris Agreement and provide a solid foundation for the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. What actions on the ground will make these initiatives transformative and accelerate the recovery of nature?

Science at the service of nature

Uniform indicators on the condition of our land resources are now being monitored at the national, regional and global levels as part of the Sustainable Development Goals indicator framework. What improvements can be made to provide better and actionable information for decision-makers and increase performance on the ground?

Pulling together on a global scale

About two billion hectares of land – an area twice the size of China – are degraded but can be restored back to health. We have only one Earth and land restoration on a large scale will create jobs and opportunities for rural youth as well as people fleeing their lands. It will boost urgently needed collaborative action on a global scale to cool the Earth and to restore a healthy environment fit for animals, plants and people. Delayed action will come at a higher and greater cost to us and our children. By contrast, immediate efforts to achieve land degradation neutrality, will accelerate the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals and help integrate the solutions needed. What commitments and actions can we imagine at large scales to support the resilience of the environment and livelihoods?

High Level Segment

On Monday 9 September 2019, Prime Minister of India Mr. Narendra Modi inaugurated the High Level Segment (HLS) of UNCCD COP14 in the presence of heads of the UN and other international organizations, leaders of states and ministers from many countries.

The Prime Minister thanked UNCCD for bringing the COP to India the country whose deep cultural roots are connected to a loving and holistic relationship with nature. India is proud of its successes in land restoration using remote sensing and space technologies and is ready to share this knowledge with other countries. India is also establishing a center of excellence for forest research to support south-south cooperation and knowledge-sharing. Mr. Modi also encouraged the COP participants to contribute to a global water action agenda that can support land degradation neutrality.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Ms. Amina Mohammed reflected in her speech that one third of the timeframe for delivering Agenda 2030 has already passed, and the countries need to act with increased urgency and ambition to get rid of silos that stand in the way of of multiple benefits that can be achieved through coordinated action on land, climate and biodiversity.

Participants also strongly agreed with Mr. Ralph Gonsalves, the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, who said that there are no countries big or small when it comes to desertification and climate change, and the only way to tackle these problems is to act on them as one global family.

The COP14 President, the Minister of Environment of India Mr. Prakash Javadekar, expressed hope that discussions among international stakeholders during the HLS will generate innovative ideas to address the local, national and global land agenda with a pragmatic and all-inclusive approach. UNCCD COP14 provides a unique opportunity to deliberate, coordinate and exchange ideas to resolve the major problem of desertification worldwide and reach a global consensus for adoption by the country parties.

Addressing the audience, UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Thiaw outlined that UNCCD COP14 is set to define the following key directions of work:

  • How to restore, protect and manage our land on a massive scale

  • How to trigger a seismic shift in private sector partnerships to make it happen

  • How help ramp up the ambition of action plans for everyone involved

Special events and the Rio Conventions Pavilion

The side events featured case studies, actions or new knowledge that is related to the issues under consideration at the Conference. The Rio Conventions Pavilion – a vibrant space for interactive all-day events and meetings – also took place at COP14, hosting "thematic days" that focused on the different areas of work of the Convention and the synergies among the Rio Conventions on climate change, biodiversity and desertification.The events included a Youth Forum, a Gender Caucus, a Science Day, a Sand and Dust Storms Day, a Business Day, a Local and Regional Governments Day, the GEF Day, the Land for Life Day and a Drought Day. 

Exhibition and Technology Fair

Many organizations showcased their products at the Exhibition and Technology Fair. There were forums exclusively organized by and for business, youth and non-governmental organizations as well as art performances and cultural events.