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Presidents of three COPs call for a united approach to climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss

Abidjan, Beijing, Cairo, November 3, 2023  – For the first time ever, the Presidents of the last Conference of Parties (COP) of each of the three Rio Conventions have decided to join forces. With three weeks to go before the opening of COP28 in Dubai, the Presidents: Underlined the urgency of the situation and the inextricable links between climate change, desertification and loss of biodiversity; Called for a coordinated approach both at international and national levels to tackle these issues in a holistic way; Pleaded for more cooperation between the three COPs and their secretariats; And asked for urgent, concrete, measures to protect the world population, environment, lands and biodiversity to ensure a sustainable future for new generations. They did so in a historic joint declaration released today, signed by: Alain-Richard Donwahi, former Minister of Water and Forestry of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire and President of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s COP15 (UNCCD) Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt and President of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s COP27 (UNFCCC) Huang Runqiu, Minister of Ecology and Environment of the People’s Republic of China and President of the Convention on Biological Diversity’s COP15 (CBD) At the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio in 1992, the international community decided to create three different conventions to fight climate change, halt desertification and prevent loss of biodiversity. However, as these three phenomena accelerate, the interconnections between them amplify, creating a vicious circle. Breaking this vicious circle requires a holistic vision and a coordinated approach. With this common declaration, the three Presidents hope to open a new chapter in the fight against climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss, one of coordinated efforts to face the urgency. About UNCCD’s COP15 The Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) brings together leaders from the Convention's signatory countries, the private sector, NGOs and civil society. It aims to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought, promote sustainable land management, rehabilitate and restore degraded lands and ecosystems, mobilize financial resources, develop technologies to support affected countries, and strengthen international cooperation and partnerships to address these phenomena. Like the COP on biodiversity, the COP on desertification meets every two years. Its last major meeting was held in May 2022 in Abidjan. From the previous summit until the next held in Riyadh for December 2024, the COP on Desertification has been chaired by the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire, represented by Alain-Richard Donwahi. Media contacts: Emilie Villemin +33 6 81 11 68 06  COP15Desertification(at)apcoworldwide.com

Presidents of three COPs call for a united approach to climate change, desertification and biodiversity loss
In Central Asia, female leadership is key to climate and drought resilience

From potatoes grown in recycled sacks to “more crop per drop” fruit tree varieties, climate-smart and women-led agriculture initiatives became the center of discussions at a recent interregional conference convened by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.   Fertile land is a precious commodity in Tajikistan, where 90% of the country's territory is covered by mountains and 60% of the population directly depend on agriculture for livelihood. Agriculture is a major part of Tajikistan’s economy. Can you spot the colors of one of its best-loved crops in the stripes of the national flag?   As heatwaves, droughts and other extreme climate events become more frequent and severe across the globe, regional cooperation and knowledge sharing are becoming a priority in building drought resilience and fighting land degradation.   In response to these growing challenges, representatives of Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan met in Dushanbe, Tajikistan from 1-2 July 2023 to discuss upscaling and coordinating legislative, educational, scientific and technical cooperation aimed at achieving Land Degradation Neutrality.  Water is so precious in Central Asia, some say it’s worth more than gold. Burrowing deep into the soil, this well in the Gissar Valley carries water that contains trace amounts of the precious metal  “Though we come from different climates and landscapes, we are united in the face of climate-induced drought and land degradation. Women who develop and test climate-smart and cost-effective solutions locally should be the ones spearheading regional and global efforts to grow and protect our food in the times of climactic stress,” participants stated.  Reflecting the theme of this year's Desertification and Drought Day “Her Land. Her Rights”, discussions centered on the key role of civil society organizations, particularly those led by women, in harnessing donor financing and advancing legislative action in support of gender-responsive land restoration projects that provide sustainable rural livelihoods.   Apples are the most popular fruit worldwide, and so are new ways to grow them more efficiently  After attending a training series at the Youth Ecological Center in Dushanbe, Mavluda Akhmedova is using the technology of growing potatoes directly in recycled sacks on her homestead in the Dekhanabod village. This approach has proven particularly effective as more frequent and sudden heatwaves and droughts in Tajikistan raise the risk of harvest loss. Growing potatoes in sacks lets the farmers control the temperature and humidity better and is of particular use on small plots where growing space is at a premium.  Greenhouses at the Agricultural University in Dushanbe use the latest technology, encouraging the students to test new approaches to efficient and sustainable crop production   During a visit to an experimental farm in the Gissar District, participants learned how students from Agricultural University in Dushanbe test classroom knowledge to implement the “more crop per drop” approach on their 800 hectares under tillage, including a fruit orchard, a vineyard and pasture.   Nothing tastes better than bread fresh from the oven! Farm-to-table is the way of life at the experimental farm of the Agricultural University of Dushanbe  The university hopes that new investments and focus on research, smart tech and innovation will bring more female students to the classrooms and labs.   Using compact varieties of fruit trees combined with drip irrigation means less water, less labour and less land are needed to produce comparable crop yields  By the end of 2023, Tajikistan intends to complete the process of joining the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Target-setting programme, bringing the number of countries who set voluntary LDN targets to 130, including all Central Asian nations.  Furthermore, participation in the World Bank’s RESILAND CA+ Initiative will allow Tajikistan to access the knowledge base of other engaged countries – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – and train forest management and rangelands biodiversity specialists. Women are expected to become the majority of RESILAND CA+ projects’ participants and beneficiaries.   Photography by Didor Sadulloev via UNDP Tajikistan

In Central Asia, female leadership is key to climate and drought resilience
Spain’s drought monitoring tool to advance global resilience through IDRA

Madrid (Spain), 30 June 2023 --- The Spanish Government will make globally available a pioneering system to monitor meteorological droughts in real-time, helping other countries build up their early warning systems and adopt a proactive, rather than reactive, approach to drought management. The announcement is part of Spain’s contribution to the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA), a coalition of more than 30 countries and 20 international entities driving drought resilience in the face of climate change. Teresa Ribera Rodriguez, Vice-President of the Government of Spain and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, made the announcement in Madrid during the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) on Drought of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “I applaud Spain's leadership and its drive to share technological innovations and valuable expertise with other regions that, like the Mediterranean, are particularly vulnerable to drought,” said UNCCD Deputy Executive Secretary Andrea Meza Murillo. “IDRA recognizes that countries and communities need to tap into their collective experience and knowledge to move towards a more resilient future. Spain’s move is a step in that direction.” Real-time drought visualizations The system developed by Spanish scientists monitors real-time rainfall and evapotranspiration —the combined loss of water from the soil surface and plants— through satellite data and a series of automated weather stations. The resulting visualizations are freely available online and inform the management of water resources, especially, in key industries such as agriculture. Users can also visualize meteorological drought indexes in Spain since 1961 and download datasets for specific places and times. The tool was launched in 2021 as part of Spain’s National Adaptation Plan to Climate Change, and has since been incorporated into Google Earth Engine, a public platform for the analysis and visualization of geospatial datasets. The contribution of Spain is in line with IDRA’s commitment to the ‘Early Warning for All’ initiative against extreme weather and climate change, launched by the United Nations Secretary-General and overseen by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO is one of the founding members of IDRA, which was launched in 2022 at the initiative of Senegal and Spain. As part of a drive to promote knowledge-sharing, IDRA members are working to facilitate partnerships between technology providers and vulnerable regions to make drought-management innovations available to all. Members have also agreed on establishing communities of practice to foster knowledge exchange and collaboration. Policy options for drought resilience From 21 to 23 June 2023, Madrid hosted the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Drought (IWG), which previously convened in Yerevan, Armenia and Bonn, Germany. The Group is working to identify policy instruments that help countries prepare themselves for, and manage, worsening droughts. In 2024, it will present its findings and recommendations to the 16th UNCCD Conference of Parties. No country is immune to drought and its impacts. In Europe alone, economic losses related to drought reach around 6,200 million  euros annually, and the global impacts of this phenomenon are projected to become longer and more severe due to climate change and unsustainable land management. Drought affects agriculture, but also energy, transportation, and tourism, and it directly affects the health of an estimated 55 million people around the world each year.  

Spain’s drought monitoring tool to advance global resilience through IDRA
10th Nevsky International Ecological Congress: Message from Ibrahim Thiaw

Excellencies, dear Friends,   It is a pleasure for me to address you today from the headquarters of the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.  Let me begin by expressing my recognition to the Russian Federation for hosting this event. The Nevsky Congress is a clear testimony of the paramount importance of the environmental agenda.   No corner of the globe is immune from the devastating consequences of climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation and drought.   Sea levels are rising, oceans are acidifying, the Arctic is melting, forests are burning, weather extremes are intensifying.   Droughts hit everywhere and with more intensity.   Rising temperatures are fuelling environmental degradation and economic deterioration.  Therefore, the theme of today´s meeting “Ecology: a right, not a privilege” couldn’t be more relevant.   We cannot afford to take today´ situation for granted.   Resolute and concerted actions are needed for the sake of present and future generations;   for their right to a decent life and environment.   However, all rights go hand in hand with responsibilities.   And our collective responsibility is to think about our Planet and to take care of the land which belongs to us all.  Without urgent action on how we use and steward our land, we cannot aspire to sustainable development for all.   Land generates the food we eat. Land produces the fibre necessary to our clothing. The water we drink is coming from terrestrial ecosystems.   The quality of the air we breathe also partly depends on the health of our land.   Therefore, I would like to call upon all the participants here today to think about land restoration as a powerful and cost-effective sustainable development tool.   Investing in large-scale land restoration to build resilience to drought, combat soil erosion, and loss of agricultural production is a win-win solution for everybody:   for the environment, for the climate, for the economy, and for the livelihoods of local communities.   Sustainable agriculture and nature-based solutions are a smart way to increase food production, stabilize climate, create employment, and wealth and prosperity.   These challenges are of importance to all.   Ladies and gentlemen,  Next year will mark the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.   2024 is also the year of COP16 of the Convention, which will be hosted by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.   The UN Convention to Combat Desertification is the only legally binding global treaty set up to address land degradation and the effects of drought.   Next year’s Nevsky International Congress may therefore be a good platform to discuss these issues. Sharing and enhancing knowledge on drought resilience, sustainable land management and restoration is key to improving land and livelihoods.   UNCCD stands ready to provide it’s support.   I wish you a successful and fruitful meeting and a productive discussion.  Spasíbo. Thank you very much for your attention!

10th Nevsky International Ecological Congress: Message from Ibrahim Thiaw
17th Meeting of UNCCD Science-Policy Interface: Opening remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

  Dear SPI Co-chairs, Members, Observers, and Early Career Fellows of the SPI, Dear Colleagues, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all of you who have ventured from near and far to join us at the UN Campus in Bonn, and to some that have joined online. It is not only the distances involved. It is your time. Your effort. Your commitment. I cannot begin to tell you how much that means to this Convention.  But I can assure you that every minute of your time and effort makes a difference. And the need could not be greater. Among other things, you are all working on an analysis of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report contributions on climate change adaptation and mitigation with respect to UNCCD priorities. From this you will know that the IPCC concluded that:  “…the pace and scale of what has been done so far, and current plans, are simply insufficient. This is why the choices made in the next few years will play a critical role in deciding our future and that of generations to come. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future. If land is part of the climate change solution – and the past work of the SPI and the IPCC make it very clear it must be – we therefore need to provide our Parties the policy options necessary to make it so. And indeed, these should be policy options that are firmly grounded in science. The urgency I am trying to convey does not stop with your IPCC AR6 analysis. Both of your scientific assessment objectives address critical bottlenecks. The first is guidance on pursuing Sustainable Land Use Systems. This will help our Parties optimize what they do where, with the aim of navigating the trade-offs among competing demands for land and achieving multiple benefits. The second is understanding aridity trends, projections and impacts. This will help Parties plan for a future where even more land and even more people may well be impacted by desertification and drought. Responding to the COP mandate for the SPI will require more urgency among all of you. With such tight timelines for delivering the work programme for the biennium 2022 to 2024, it may well require doing things differently. Doing things differently does not come easy for anyone, particularly after years of experience. Which is why I am so encouraged to see new and younger faces among the more senior scientists in the room! It’s going to be a two-way beneficial process – they will learn so much from the rest of you. And you, the experienced scientists will also benefit from new perspectives and fresh ideas. Bear in mind the IPCC focused on ensuring a liveable planet. Those of us closer to my age will not experience the worst of the projections. But all of us have children or other relatives who most certainly will. Which is why the perspectives of the younger generations must figure into our calculus and actions. It is also why I thought you might like to know the views of Ijad Madisch, one of Germany’s most innovative and influential young scientists on “the need to move fast and break things”. You may know him as the founder and CEO of ResearchGate, a tool many of you use to track scientific output and impact, or to network with other scientists. Two things you may not know: First, he is a Syrian refugee who has lived what far too many more will experience in the coming years. And, secondly, after a telephone request from then German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he joined the 10-member Digital Council of the Cabinet of Germany. At 38 years of age. Part of the reason Chancellor Merkel chose him was an Op Ed he wrote for the Scientific American calling for a revolution in scientific transparency and accessibility he dubbed the “Science in Real Time; For a Move Fast, Break Things and Talk about It Mentality”. You will be here for the next three intense days. Debating, drafting and redrafting. With your sleeves rolled up, I urge you to move fast, break things and talk about it.  I urge you to make things happen in your work with a sense of urgency that will ultimately influence policy makers to take bold, necessary and evidence-based action. To get there on such tight timelines, you may wish to consider Ijad’s suggestion that you find a way to share your results, methods, questions, failures and everything in between as early as you can. Perhaps through some form of preprint that can lead to greater insights before things are finalized. As Ijad argues, whether or not it is right early on in the process is not the issue. Rather, failures are discoveries in disguise. Looking at everything that hasn’t worked will inevitably eventually lead to something that does. And maybe something far more relevant to policy makers since the feedback you may receive will become part of the results you obtain. In the domain of high tech start-ups, they say “Fail, and fail fast”. Failure is not a risk to be avoided. It is the basis for disruptive progress that could move your work from confirmational science to something that helps drive much needed change in the world. But this will only happen if you consider this work as a vital part of the solution, working with the same sense of urgency that the IPCC has requested of all of us. With this, I thank you again for stepping up to help us all bridge science and policy. And I wish you a disruptive but productive week! Thank you

17th Meeting of UNCCD Science-Policy Interface: Opening remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
Statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw at the non-statutory meeting of the Great Green Wall

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to this non-statutory meeting of the Great Green Wall. And thank you for joining.  Friends,  The Great Green Wall is arguably one of the most inspiring Land Restoration Program in the world. By its ambition, its size, its institutional set up with a dedicated  Heads of State Summit, Ministerial Conference and Agencies (national and regional). It is politically endorsed by the continental body and is therefore institutionally hooked to the African Union. The political support it has makes it unique and inspiring. Even more inspiring when one thinks that in the Sahara and the Sahel, we have one of the harshest ecological conditions, coupled with a very challenging socio-political and security situation. This makes it even more compelling. A new departure was given in 2021, at the One Planet Summit in Paris, with USD 19 Billion pledged by donors and technical support offered by Partners. This meeting will be an opportunity for us to get some updates as to what has worked; and what has not; what needs to be fixed? Both Governments, Donor Agencies and Partners? It is refreshing to know that much progress has already been made, while we still have a long way to go to achieve our ambitions. We will hear more in a short while from different speakers. It is equally encouraging to see, despite all the constructive criticism, that the Great GreenWall is inspiring action in other parts of Africa, and elsewhere in the world. The Southern Africa region (SADC) is busy preparing a similar program The Middle East Green Initiative (which also covers parts of Africa) has already received its first funding of USD 2.5 B from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia An Eastern Africa corridor may be developed soon Other similar initiatives under the umbrella of the African Union’s NEPAD are also ongoing such as the AFR100, which we salute It seems the movement of large-scale land restoration is unstoppable, as these provide multiple benefits and respond to various Sustainable Development Goals. Before I go any further, let me recognize few leaders that are in the room and give them the floor for their opening remarks and their blessings: To officially open the meeting, please welcome the Nigerian rotating Presidency of the Great GreenWall. We have the honor of welcoming Minister Mohammed H. Abdullahi, Chair of the Council of Ministers of the Great GreenWall. We are also honored to have with us Her Excellency Ms. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy, and Agriculture of the AU Commission Ms. Inger Andersen J’aimerai maintenant partager avec vous quelques avis et recommandations générales qui découlent de nos observations et de nos interactions avec tous les acteurs au cours de deux dernières années. Ces commentaires n’altèrent en rien l’authenticité et la pertinence du programme de la Grande Muraille Verte, bien au contraire. 1.   Financement : sur les USD 19 milliards annoncés il y a deux ans lors du One Planet Summit à Paris, 80% des fonds sont déjà programmés, répartis en 150 projets dans le pipeline. 4 milliards restent encore à programmer. Nous notons cependant un déphasage entre les attentes des acteurs nationaux de la Grande Muraille Verte et cette première liste de projets. En effet, la majorité de ces projets étaient déjà planifiés avant le One Planet Summit; par ailleurs, certains de ces projets ne sont pas situés dans les zones d’intervention prioritaires de la Grande Muraille Verte. Ce déphasage peut être corrigé s’il y a une meilleure coordination au niveau national par les ministères chargés de l’ordonnancement. C’est à cet effet que nous saluons la présence parmi nous de ministres de l’Economie. Nous saluons aussi la mise en place dans beaucoup de pays, de coalitions nationales, qui sont des structures intersectorielles de coordination. La coordination doit idéalement se faire depuis l’amont, c’est-à-dire la planification, et doit bien entendu se poursuivre au moment de la mise en œuvre. Par ailleurs, plusieurs agences nationales de la Grande Muraille Verte expriment leur volonté d’être mieux impliqués dans la mise en œuvre des projets portant le label de la Grande Muraille Verte afin de jouer leur rôle de coordination et de suivi, afin d’être en mesure de rendre compte à leurs autorités nationales. Il serait intéressant d’avoir des opinions sur ces questions et surtout de clarifier, dans chaque pays, les procédures de planification et d’exécution des projets. Les structures gouvernementales officielles, adéquatement recalibrés, doivent être aux commandes. 2.  Renforcement des institutions : Tout en saluant encore une fois la volonté politique à haut niveau, nous recommandons fortement que les institutions de mise en œuvre et de suivi de la Grande Muraille Verte soient revues et renforcés. Dans la plupart des pays, les structures nationales de la Grande Muraille Verte -tout comme l’Agence régionale- manquent de personnels suffisant en qualification et en nombre, pour pleinement jouer leur rôle de planification, de développement, de suivi-évaluation et de coordination d’un programme d’une telle ampleur et d’une telle complexité. Nous encourageons les gouvernements et l’Agence panafricaine à exécuter la décision, prise en 2021, du Conseil des Ministres de la Grande Muraille Verte. La décision commandite un audit institutionnel de la Grande Muraille Verte, pour adapter les anciennes structures (régionale et nationales) à la nouvelle configuration post-One Planet Summit. Nous encourageons également les partenaires techniques et financiers à accompagner ce processus de renforcement institutionnel, condition essentielle pour la réussite de cet ambitieux programme. 3.  Prochaines étapes : La préparation de la prochaine phase de la Grande Muraille Verte doit démarrer incessamment, pour assurer une continuité après 2025. Le budget total estimé de la Grande Muraille Verte à 2030 était de 33 milliards de dollars. Pour atteindre cet objectif, il serait judicieux de : (i) tirer des leçons de la phase actuelle (ii) procéder à la préparation de la prochaine phase et développer des projets bankables. Un tel exercice nécessite un effort conséquent dans chaque pays, mais aussi au niveau régional. Merci  

Statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw at the non-statutory meeting of the Great Green Wall