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It’s everybody’s business to put degraded lands back to life, UN says

Our individual consumption and production choices have a lasting impact on land. Thus, restoring and protecting fragile areas is the responsibility of everyone who wants to eat, drink or breathe. Restoration of 150 million ha of degraded land can generate US$40 billion for small farmers and feed 200 million people. Agriculture and urbanization, the two new drivers of land degradation today also demand action.   French Spanish Arabic Chinese Russian Ankara, 17 June 2019. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for urgent action to protect and restore degrading land in a bid to reduce forced migration, improve food security, spur economic growth and help to address the global climate emergency.  Noting that the world loses 24 billion tons of fertile soil and dryland degradation reduces national domestic product in developing countries by up to 8% annually, Guterres said much remains to be done, and stressed the imperative of combatting desertification as part of our efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Ibrahim Thiaw, head of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification – the world’s only agreement binding countries to tackle land degradation and desertification and to mitigate the effects of drought – said our simple, everyday choices have a huge and enduring impact on the land, climate and biodiversity. He called for quicker and smarter individual and professional choices, if we want our society, economy and environment to grow together.  When only 20 per cent of the surface is habitable and one percent of freshwater is accessible to a global population that will reach nine billion in three decades, the simple, everyday choices we make to produce or consume goods ripple across our intricately interconnected lifestyles with incredibly long-term impacts, he stressed.  Recent assessments show that one out of every four hectares of productive land has become unusable. Moreover, three out of every four hectares have been altered completely from their natural state.  Under these conditions, Thiaw said increasing food production by 50 percent, when land degradation and climate change will be decreasing crop yields by 50 percent makes restoring and protecting the fragile layer of land an issue for “anyone who wants to eat, drink or breathe.”  Thiaw made the call from Ankara, Turkey, during the global observance of the worldwide celebrations to mark both the 2019 World Day to Combat Desertification and 25 years of international cooperation in restoring and protecting productive land.  World day to Combat Desertification is celebrated every year in every country on 17 June to promote good land stewardship for the benefit of present and future generations. Turkey’s President Recepp Tayyip Erdogan presided over the global observance celebrations hosted by his government, and attended by ministers from 10 countries. Some 196 countries and the European Union are parties to the Convention, of which 169 are affected by desertification, land degradation or drought.  In 2015, the international community agreed to achieve a balance in the rate at which land is degraded and restored by taking concrete actions to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation, generally referred to as achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN), and mitigate the effects of drought. n the last four years, 122 countries have committed to take voluntary, measurable actions to arrest land degradation by 2030. And 44 of the 70 countries that have suffered drought in the past have set up national plans to manage drought more effectively in the future.  Whereas a significant amount of the land degradation and transformation has occurred over the last 50 years, Thiaw stressed that the success stories of land restoration and conservation, such as in Turkey’s Central Anatolia region, offer hope that change is possible when traditional knowledge, technology and faith communities come together creatively. He said the restoration of 150 million hectares of farmland by 2030 can generate up to USD40 billion in extra income for smallholders, feed another 200 million people and sink several gigatons of carbon dioxide. Scaling it up across all our degraded land could prevent biodiversity and climate from disintegrating and bequeath new opportunities to the next generation, he added. He warned, however, that urbanization is a growing challenge because half of the global population now lives in urban areas and consumes resources produced in an area 200 times the size of the city. What’s more, regions such as Asia and Africa could lose 80 percent of their cropland to cities.  Restoring the two billion hectares of land that is already degraded would help meet that growing demand from urban areas and create sustainable jobs and stabilize vulnerable areas, he argued. Thiaw said the actions taken by countries in the context of the Convention show that the world is determined to switch from destroying the Earth to making it productive enough to grow a better future for everyone by 2030. ~ ends ~ About UNCCD The UNCCD is an international agreement on good land stewardship. It helps people, communities and countries to create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food and water and energy, by ensuring land users have an enabling environment for sustainable land management. Through partnerships, the Convention’s 197 Parties set up robust systems to manage drought promptly and effectively. Good land stewardship based on a sound policy and science helps integrate and accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, builds resilience to climate change and prevents biodiversity loss. Notes to Editors Background information about the 2019 celebrations in Turkey and around the world are available here: https://www.unccd.int/actions17-june-world-day-combat-desertification/celebrate-2019wdcd Factsheet: Summary of Recent Assessments of Land Degradation Speech: Executive Secretary, UNCCD on the Occasion of World Day to Combat Desertification For interviews contact: wwischnewski@unccd.int

It’s everybody’s business to put degraded lands back to life, UN says
25 years of growing together: A convention is born after more than two decades

Some international agreements emerge quickly. But the birth of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification was a long tortuous journey. In particular, it was undermined by the perception that it was a development Convention. Yet the evolution of its sister Rio Conventions on Climate Change and on Biological Diversity shows that a purist approach to environmental conservation is at best misguided, and at worst dangerous.

25 years of growing together: A convention is born after more than two decades
Momentum to recover land health picks up as rural livelihoods improve

Georgetown, Guyana – Momentum to repair degraded lands and to manage droughts more effectively has picked up, according to reports released for review by an inter-governmental meeting that opened today in Georgetown, Guyana. An assessment of land degradation in 127 countries revealed that close to 20 percent of healthy land was degraded in the first 15 years of this Millennium. Globally, 169 countries are affected by land degradation, desertification or drought. In the last four years, 82 countries have set targets aiming to halt land degradation by 2030 and 44 of the 70 countries regularly hit by drought are setting up drought management plans to ensure droughts do not turn into disasters. The findings are the most comprehensive to date, with data submitted by 135 countries and an assessment of degradation monitored using Earth observations.  The seventeenth Session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the UN’s Convention to Combat Desertification (CRIC17) taking place in Guyana will review the reports over the next three days. Their recommendations on further actions to ramp up this momentum will be tabled at the fourteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be held on 2-13 September 2019 in New Delhi, India. “Momentum is with us”, announced Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the Convention, during the opening of CRIC 17.  “The first piece of good news is that we know more and more about what is going on…. how much land we have degraded globally in the first 15 years of this Millennium, how life has changed for the communities living on degraded lands, how droughts are evolving globally, the changing status of endangered biological species, and the financial resources available to address desertification,” she said. She also described as good news the reports’ findings that “in all regions, rural populations now have more access to safe drinking water, poverty has declined by 27% overall, at least 120 countries will eventually have targets to curb land degradation and there is growing interest from domestic and global private finance to invest in land management.” Ms. Barbut, who steps down as the Convention’s Executive Secretary next month, however cautioned that “aspects such as land governance, education, demography and land use planning still have a long way to go,” and called on governments not to underestimate their ability to trigger change in the most pressing areas, but to be “brave.” Joseph Harmon, Minister of State, Guyana, said “although milestones have been achieved… we still have to be steadfast in addressing land degradation.” “The continuing degradation of land and soils is a severe threat to the provision of ecosystem services and economic development globally,” he said.  Harmon said “the pressures on land are increasing due to urbanization, population growth and rising demands for food, feed, fuel and fiber. Halting land degradation is therefore a prerequisite for sustainable development,” he stressed.  Global efforts to combat desertification began in 1977. However, the rapid loss of productive land due to a combination of poor land uses and growing extreme and erratic weather effects now affects more people than ever before. Two other recent reports examined the extent and effects of land degradation on livelihoods. The Global Land Outlook released in 2017 found a persistent loss of 20 percent of the Earth’s vegetative cover from 1998-2013. The Assessment of Land Degradation released in 2018 showed that land degradation impacts over 3.2 billion people. The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change is expected to release its own assessment of the effects climate change on land degradation later this year. CRIC 17 ends Wednesday, 30 January. About UNCCD The UNCCD is an international agreement on good land stewardship. It helps people, communities and countries to create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food and water and energy, by ensuring land users have an enabling environment for sustainable land management. Through partnerships, the Convention’s 197 Parties set up robust systems to manage drought promptly and effectively. Good land stewardship based on a sound policy and science helps integrate and accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, builds resilience to climate change and prevents biodiversity loss. Notes to editors Download a factsheet of the findings from the report Download the detailed report For specific country reports, see here For interviews with UNCCD staff contact wwischnewski@unccd.int  To interview specific country delegates Opening Speech of Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary

Momentum to recover land health picks up as rural livelihoods improve
Iceland counting on land to reach carbon neutrality by 2040

Iceland will reach carbon neutrality before the year 2040. This is the ambitious goal that my government set in September 2018 when it introduced a new climate action plan to get us there. We are taking actions that tackle the three major global environmental challenges – on biological diversity, climate change and desertification – simultaneously.

Iceland counting on land to reach carbon neutrality by 2040