Excellency, President of UNCCD COP14,
H. E. Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire,
High Level Officials
Representatives of International Organisations,
Representatives of Civil Society,
Ladies and gentlemen,
First, I would like to express our sincere appreciation to H.E. Patrick Achi, Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire, for honouring us with your presence today. Mr Prime Minister, may I kindly ask you to convey our deep gratitude to the people of Côte d’Ivoire, to President Alassane Ouattara and to the entire Government, for offering us such a warm welcome in this beautiful country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Every COP is important. Each has its characteristics. To my mind, this one is, however, particularly special. We are still reeling from the consequences of major disruptions that affect our food, energy, industry and economy.
From the pandemic to major conflicts. From the climate crisis to nature and land loss.
Never before in history, has humanity faced so many complex challenges.
Never before, have so many humans depended on so little arable land.
Never before, have our land and soils been so damaged.
And – fortunately - never before, has a generation been in a such a powerful position to change the course of history for the better. To deploy so much science, knowledge and financial resources in making and implementing the right decisions.
The findings of the Global Land Outlook published just over a week ago cannot be clearer: we can either shrink or grow our economy by half.
If we continue with current production and consumption patterns, we will also continue to damage the global economy. Already, every second person on the planet is affected by land loss.
Which is why, I think this is the most important COP in the history of the UNCCD. In terms of both the complexity and the urgency of the issues we need to address.
Indeed, there are less than 8 years and 3 or 4 COPs left to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.
But 20 million people in the Horn of Africa suffering from the most severe drought in over 40 years can’t wait that long.
700 million people would have no choice but to flee, as their productive land degrades.
With women and girls still carrying most of the burden and few of the benefits.
Let me be clear: this isn’t just the poor peoples’ problem.
If global food prices are hurting from the war in Ukraine, how will they react to the US losing 40% of its maize crops to pests?
If global health systems and businesses are hurting from the cost of the pandemic, how will they react to paying $2 trillion a year for more zoonotic diseases?
And if the global economy is already faltering from pandemic and war, how will it react to output being halved because we mismanaged the natural capital supporting everything we eat and drink; the same land that produces the clothes we wear, and the air we breathe.
While the diagnosis is frightening, procrastination and inaction scare me a lot more. The longer we wait, the more complex these issues will be, the more difficult and costly our actions will be, and the more terrifying the consequences will be too.
That’s why one of the scenarios in the Global Outlook shows how we can increase global GDP up to 50% by 2050 if we take action now to restore and conserve 35% of our global land.
It offers practical and pragmatic solutions to achieve this. For example, over the next 10 years, investing just a fifth of the finances currently spent on harmful subsidies could restore land the size of China - increasing the productivity of our soils and the quality of our food. In other words, investing tax-payers money to protect their assets, not to destroy their lives.
Indeed, if we leverage the natural synergies between the Rio Conventions for land, biodiversity and climate change, we can not only reverse destructive trends, but also:
accelerate progress across every single Sustainable Development Goal.
and multiply opportunities for a sustainable post-pandemic recovery.
This COP offers us a unique opportunity to share our combined experiences and renew our collective commitments to protect our planet. To protect ourselves.
This High-Level Segment will facilitate open and honest discussions about land regeneration and stewardship, the futures of our young people and our consumption habits, and the path to both drought resilience and economic recovery.
But I also need your support to ramp up the speed and ambition of all COP negotiations.
The Abidjan COP is a generational opportunity to tackle desertification, degradation and drought.
To deliver spill over benefits for biodiversity, security, equality and the economy before climate change tips them beyond our reach.
To save lives. Millions of them. Now.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is a chance we may never get back.
Which is why, I say again, this is the most important COP in the history of the UNCCD.