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World Soil Day 2022: Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw

Healthy food, healthy climate, healthy planet: they are all impossible without healthy soil. Soil is literally the foundation of human wellbeing on this planet. That’s why on World Soil Day we celebrate this precious and precarious layer of life-giving substance. Almost 99% of our calories come from land. So we can say soil is where our food begins. It can take up to a thousand years to produce just one inch of soil. But it only takes moments to destroy it – through flash floods or sand and dust storms that strip our fertile topsoil. Every five seconds, the equivalent of one soccer field is eroded. We must urgently change the way we care for our land and the way we feed our world of eight billion people. Diversifying cropping system, no-till farming, replacing chemical fertilizers and pesticides with organic alternatives are just some solutions that can lead to healthier soils and more nutritious foods. Beyond food, soil is a mighty ally in mitigating and adapting to climate change. More organic carbon can be stored in the soil than in vegetation and atmosphere combined. Restoring degraded land makes it a powerful carbon sink. Finally, the world’s soils are teeming with biodiversity: they are home to one trillion times more bacteria than there are stars in the universe! Fungi is an essential part of healthy soil. It breaks down organic matter so that nutrients become available for plants. And then there are over 2,700 species of earthworms. These vital but under-appreciated creatures keep our soil alive and fertile. This World Soil Day and every day, let’s celebrate our soil, let’s cherish our soil, let’s save our soil. Thank you.

World Soil Day 2022: Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw
Healthy soil for a food-secure future becomes focus of World Soil Day in Kazakhstan

Fertile soil is a vital resource of livelihoods, prosperity and human well-being for millions across the Central Asia region. At the same time, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD), spurred on by climate change, pose a growing threat to soil health across the region. Around 1/3 of the region's land area is degraded, one of the highest rates in the world, according to UNCCD data. In his World Soil Day message  Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw remarked that “soil is literally the foundation of human wellbeing on this planet. That’s why on World Soil Day we celebrate this precious and precarious layer of life-giving substance.” To highlight the urgency of preserving and restoring soil for a food-secure future, Kazakhstan, with the support of the FAO country office, marked this year’s World Soil Day by holding a yearly scientific conference with government representatives, scientists, journalists and industry on key issues of sustainable soil management. In his opening remarks, Baglhan Bekbauov, Vice Minister of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, reflected that “Land resources are of exceptional importance for the livelihood, prosperity, well-being (…) and the way of life of both our contemporaries and our future generations.” In her presentation, the UNCCD RLO for CEE Nadezda Dementieva underscored the urgent need to combat land degradation, raising political momentum to activate the land restoration agenda at global, regional and national levels. She also presented the UNCCD´s flagship publication, the 2nd edition of the Global Land Outlook, which focuses on diverse pathways that countries and communities can adopt to reverse land degradation through fit-to-purpose land restoration agendas. Kazakhstan´s active engagement in the World Soil Day activities reflects the importance UNCCD places on combatting desertification across the entire region. Recognizing the key role of achieving a neutral balance of land degradation to slow down DLDD, five Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – have already joined the UNCCD Land Degradation Neutrality Programme, striving to reach no net loss of healthy and productive land. Uzbekistan also holds the distinction of being the first Central Asian country to host an official UNCCD conference, the 21st session of the UNCCD Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC21) in Samarkand from 9 to 13 October 2023.

Healthy soil for a food-secure future becomes focus of World Soil Day in Kazakhstan
UNCCD Statement at CBD COP15 Opening Plenary

It is an honor to speak on behalf of the secretariat of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). The UNCCD is hopeful that CBD Parties would agree to a strong and solid new global biodiversity framework. Such agreement would greatly contribute to the success of the three Rio Conventions. Land is the operative link between biodiversity and climate change – by focusing our actions on restoring the health and productivity of terrestrial ecosystems, we can simultaneously protect habitats, capture, and store carbon, and improve the living conditions of local communities. Global commitments to restore degraded land by 2030 have reached one billion hectares, with almost half of these pledged as Land Degradation Neutrality targets under the UNCCD. At their recent COP in Abidjan, the UNCCD Parties agreed to explore complementarities within relevant Multilateral Environmental Agreements in the implementation of sustainable land management, ecosystem-based approaches, or nature-based solutions. The Rio Conventions must deliver a coherent and integrated plan of action at all levels to finance and effectively tackle the intertwined biodiversity, land, and climate crises. In GEF-8, we welcome the fact that countries are being incentivized to move more of their programming through integrated programmes that address our interconnected environmental and development challenges. In that respect, we would like to encourage all Parties to align land degradation neutrality targets, nationally determined contributions, and the new biodiversity targets to maximize the impacts of nature-positive investments and significantly diminish the tremendous gap between commitment and action. Adopting new targets and agreements will only make full sense if we implement them in a coordinated manner, at all levels. Thank you for your attention. At UNCCD we stand ready to support you in promoting an enhanced collaboration for the wellbeing and survival of all species and the planet.  

UNCCD Statement at CBD COP15 Opening Plenary
COP27 shows importance of land in solving climate crisis

Bonn, 23 November 2022 - Commitments made at the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (COP27), which concluded on Sunday, 20 November in Egypt, provide new impetus for working together to recover degraded land, build resilience to drought, tackle climate change and reduce the loss of biodiversity.  “This COP27, held on the African continent, underlined the importance of sustainable land management in addressing the climate crisis and multiple global challenges of our time. The announcement of new initiatives such as the International Drought Resilience Alliance, the ENACT partnership to promote nature-based solutions, and the progress on the Great Green Wall have mobilized decision-makers around concrete proposals to address both the climate emergency and the land degradation crisis that threaten billions of people around the world,” says Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Droughts are natural disasters, but have become more widespread, frequent and severe due to the combined impacts of climate change and land degradation. The international community’s traditional emergency response is no longer enough. Considering that preparing for droughts in advance is far cheaper than reacting and responding to impacts after droughts hit, 30 countries and over 20 organizations supported Senegal and Spain at COP27 to launch the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA). The Alliance is a global collaborative platform to help communities, cities and countries to build resilience to drought. Nature-based solutions can provide 37% of cost-effective CO2 mitigation needed by 2030 to limit climate change. At COP27, Egypt and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) launched a global initiative to solve the need for an integrated global approach to nature-based solutions. Known as Enhancing Nature-based Solutions for an accelerated Climate Transformation or ENACT, the initiative links climate change to biodiversity. Two of its eight areas of focus linked to UNCCD’s work are Food Security and Land Productivity and Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction. Land restoration is a critical pillar in the nature-based solutions to climate change, drought and biodiversity loss. Nations have pledged to restore one billion degraded hectares – an area the size of the USA or China — by 2030. Nearly half of these voluntary commitments are under the UNCCD. Large scale land restoration initiatives such as Africa’s Great Green Wall and the Middle East Green Initiative offer hope in global efforts to build resilience, create jobs and livelihoods. New financial analysis of the Great Green Wall Accelerator presented at COP27 shows more than 150 projects are under implementation. Over USD15 billion of the of USD 19 billion pledged since the 2021 One Planet Summit was allocated to these projects. The African Development Bank, Agence Française de Development and the European Investment Bank were requested to work on developing a funding mechanism for non-governmental actors and a new pipeline of projects to scale up impact. Somali and Cote d’Ivoire also announced they will join the Great Green Wall countries. The DeserTech community in Negev region of Israel and UNCCD's Global Mechanism also announced a partnership in a new training scheme to find innovative solutions to tackle desert-related challenges. Innovators from 11 Great Green Wall countries are invited to apply for the training that will field trips to acquire skills and knowledge to identify challenges, assess potential technologies and write concrete project proposals that are ready for implementation. The G20 Global Land Initiative held its COP27 event titled, Towards 50 percent reduction in degraded land by 2040, to showcase land restoration initiatives at different levels: the Global Peatland Initiative; the Saudi Green Initiative; and soil conservation at the local level driven by Isha Foundation’s Save the Soil Movement. The discussion focused on collaboration and coordinated action, the contribution of the Coordination Office of the G20 Global Land Initiative in these efforts and how countries and organizations could join and associate with the G20 Global Land Initiative. The event coincided with the release of the G20 Bali Declaration, in which leaders reiterated their shared ambition to halve land degradation by 2040. As part of ongoing collaboration among the secretariats of CBD, UNCCD and UNFCCC, the Rio Conventions Pavilion (RCP) programme of events was hosted at the GEF-GCF Pavilion at COP27. The RCP@COP27 emphasized the importance of integrated approaches at global and national levels in the implementation of the Rio Conventions towards their common objectives. For the first time, the food and agriculture themes featured prominently at COP27 and at the UNCCD’s most recent COP15 held in May in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire. The upcoming CBD COP15, taking place from 7-19 December in Montreal, Canada, will be the final of the three Rio Conventions to hold its meeting in 2022. It is expected to deliver a new global framework to tackle biodiversity loss.  COP27 took place from 6 to 20 November 2022 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. Among the COP27 outcomes, the decision to establish a dedicated fund to assist vulnerable developing countries in responding to “loss and damage,” is considered ground-breaking. Details about the fund and how it will operate will be developed before the next Conference at the end of next year.  

COP27 shows importance of land in solving climate crisis