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The business case for regenerative land use

Currently, one in every five hectares of land on Earth is unusable and by 2050 only 10% of land could be healthy Businesses are failing to help protect the resources of healthy ecosystems they depend upon such as land for farming The good news is that initiatives like The Great Green Wall are proving that action can be taken now to reverse land degradation By 2050, 90 per cent of land could become degraded. How can businesses help restore the resources they depend upon? Land restoration, with a ballpark cost of $500 per hectare, is one of the most cost-effective ways to combat business risks. Restoring just 350 million hectares of degraded land could, by 2030, remove greenhouse gases roughly equal to half the world’s annual emissions from the atmosphere. Restoring land can earn an extra $1.4 trillion in agricultural production every year. Focusing on regenerative land use is an opportunity to safeguard businesses from the impacts of climate change and land degradation. Restoring ecosystems and soil biodiversity is among the most effective weapons against weather extremes. Restoring land can create employment and help a green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the US, first movers have demonstrated that under certain conditions, farms with regenerative practices are an estimated 78% more profitable than those using conventional practices. Read the latest blog by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw for the World Economic Forum: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/01/how-businesses-can-help-restore-land-resources/ Read more: The Great Green Wall initiative Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality UNCCD science-policy blog

The business case for regenerative land use
Report on state of world's land and water resources for food and agriculture released

Remarks by UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw Dear colleagues and friends I am honoured to participate in the launch of this year’s State of the World's Land and Water Resources, and I thank our friends and partners at FAO for their kind invitation and for our continued collaboration. The document we have in front of us today is a timely contribution to the sustainable development agenda and bolsters the evidence base needed to drive regenerative solutions that our societies urgently – and rightly - demand. Observing the confluence of crises – from drought, wildfires and floods to persistent epidemics and devastating pandemics – we are rapidly approaching certain limits in the planetary system -- and if I may say -- pushing the envelope that keeps us all safe. Many of the breaking points in our food systems are due to our activities, specifically the over-exploitation and poor management of land and water resources. Likewise, its within our power and capacity to transform our actions so that we avoid land degradation, reduce land resource pressures, and begin planning and preparing for the future. Protecting and restoring nature is an urgent priority and requires an immediate response– pivoting from reactive to proactive. The objective of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is to assist countries with the “rehabilitation, conservation and sustainable management of land and water resources, leading to improved living conditions” Land restoration is all about creating opportunities for people by transforming the governance of land resources to facilitate a shift to regenerative management practices. Everyone has a role to play in restoring land – individuals, communities, businesses, governments, and international organizations all have a stake in the future. And we are here to support all of you in that quest. Our convention provides the multilateral legal and institutional framework not only to tackle, together, desertification, land degradation and drought, but to advance together in unveiling the opportunities that land restoration offers to all of us in terms of food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation and ecosystem conservation, to name a few. Under the UNCCD, for example, response actions committed under the Land Degradation Neutrality targets focus on improving health and productivity of our land. We expect to advance on this agenda, along with other important aspects of land restoration, at our upcoming COP15 that will take place in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of May 2022. In closing, I would like to encourage you to join us in our journey to Abidjan and to conserve, protect and restore our precious land, for the health and the development of people and planet. Thank you very much.

Report on state of world's land and water resources for food and agriculture released
Remarks by UNCCD ES Ibrahim Thiaw at 61st GEF Council

Agenda item on Relations with Conventions and other International Institutions (Agenda item.10) Co-Chairs, Council members, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am grateful for this opportunity to brief the Council again. The Council meets at a time when the world is grappling with the increasing challenges in the path to sustainable development. You are meeting this time round when land restoration is becoming more relevant by the day. I see the beginning of a large-scale land restoration movement across the world. When World Leaders speak of trillion trees to be planted, we should translate these into hectares of land being restored. Restoring degraded lands, as you know, generates revenues for poor populations. Land restoration also brings more food to the hungry and to the markets. It’s restoring ecosystems and biodiversity. When they say planting trees, we should hear enhancing resilience to the climate crisis while sequestering large quantities of carbon from the atmosphere and bringing carbon back to where it belongs, to the soil. Just last month at the UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow, more than 140 countries agreed on a common declaration, namely the Glasgow Leader’s Declaration on Forests and Land Use. Leaders committed to working together to reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. We now need to move rapidly from Summit Declarations to real implementation on the ground. Another positive outcome of Glasgow was the Bezos Earth pledge of $1 billion dollars for landscape restoration in Africa, especially for  the implementation of the Great Green Wall. The pledges to the Great Green Wall are now totaling more than 19 billion dollars. This Africa-led land restoration initiative, which you are familiar with, would not be possible without the incubation of the GEF. The Great Green Wall is one the concrete examples of a program, which, from its early stages, benefited from the support of the GEF. When only few believed on the Great Green Wall, the GEF saw the potential of a glass half full. Today, banks and other financial institutions are investing on the Great Green Wall. This is a concrete demonstration that investing in nature can be a profitable business, even in the Sahel, one of the harshest conditions on Earth. UNCCD is working closely with all partners and the 11 countries of  the GGW to develop mechanisms that allow better access to the existing funds to help address land restoration, drought, renewable energies, youth and women’s employment across the Sahel region. I would like to express our gratitude once again to you, as members of the Council, and to the GEF Secretariat, for your trust and support. Today, we are happy to see similar initiatives being developed in other parts of the world. Again, a concrete case of what a successful demonstration programme can do, namely, to serve as an example and to emulate. In that respect, the Middle East Green Initiative announced in March 2021 was launched in Riyadh last month. It aims, among others, to restore 200 million hectares across the Greater Middle East. In parallel, Saudi Arabia launched its own national green initiative, which aims at restoring 40 million hectares of degraded land. Similar initiatives are already in place in India, Pakistan, China. We are pleased to see other countries developing similar plans, including Mongolia, the countries of the dry corridor of Latin America, as well the countries of Southern Africa, under the SADC umbrella. In addition, just two weeks ago, I signed in Riyadh an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to set up the Secretariat of the "G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats”, that is the initiative launched by the G20 leaders under the Saudi G20 Presidency in November 2020. Under this initiative, the G20 leaders aim to prevent, halt and reverse land degradation across the world through private sector engagement, civil society empowerment, knowledge sharing and development.  The ambition here is to achieve a 50% reduction in degraded land by 2040. This will support other existing initiatives, adding momentum to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Council members, We, at UNCCD, are now focusing on our upcoming COP15, which will be held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire – the 2nd and 3rd weeks of May of 2022. Two topics are likely to be discussed by Parties amongst others: Firstly: Parties will review the report of the Intergovernmental working Group on drought, which was set up by the previous COP in New Delhi. Unfortunately, droughts are hitting every year more countries, more communities, more economies, and more ecosystems. As we speak, millions of people are deprived from food and basic needs in Eastern Africa and in Madagascar. It is really heartbreaking to see people starving, large mammals drying literally in the deserts; and millions of hectares of forests burning all over the world. Secondly: Large scale land restoration is likely to come up as a big topic at the next COP, the world seems to be finally waking up to the importance of nature-based solutions. This movement is now unstoppable. The smartest private investors have gotten the message. It is a critical moment for the GEF as we have on sight the early results of our 30 years of investment in nature. Thirty years of demonstration, research, and science. The moment has now come to move to large scale. In my recent trip to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, Government authorities expressed their interest in developing what they call a « legacy programme ». As proud hosts to UNCCD COP15 and a country whose economy is largely dependent on agriculture, they want to invest on their best asset, namely: LAND. Hence, boosting long term environmental sustainability across major value chains.  Investing in large-scale sustainable management of land and soils in Côte d’Ivoire is investing in the country’s best asset: its natural capital. This will help protect and restore forests and lands and improving communities’ resilience to climate change. It’s an opportunity for UNCCD, GEF and other partners to work together to support this programme, which will help restore land and ensure sustainable development. That is the large-scale land management we are inviting GEF partners to consider, when moving ahead with the eighth replenishment of the facility. Keeping in view the emerging challenges that today’s world is facing, we hope that the replenishment of GEF-8 will find innovative, and creative ways to address these challenges. UNCCD will continue working with its Parties to set and update their voluntary land degradation neutrality targets and to develop projects to meet these targets. Most parties have developed national drought plans with UNCCD’s assistance; they are looking for support to implement these plans. Drought is an increasing threat due to the unpredictable changes in the world’s environment and there is a dire need of financing to enhance resilience and implement measures to combat effects of drought. So, allow me to close reminding us of the two issues that come high in the world’s attention: Drought management and mitigating the impacts of drought. Second, sustainable land management, large-scale land restoration. These, ladies and gentlemen, are important issues that also concern climate change, biodiversity, food, and human wellbeing. They are at the heart of what GEF is all about, and what GEF-8 should be focusing on. I thank you.

Remarks by UNCCD ES Ibrahim Thiaw at 61st GEF Council
Allocution du Secrétaire Exécutif de la CNULCD au Sommet de la GMV

Excellence, monsieur Mohamed Cheikh El Ghazouani, Président de la République Islamique de Mauritanie, président en exercice de la Grande Muraille Verte, Excellence, messieurs les Présidents, Excellence, monsieur le Président de la Commission de l’Union africaine, Excellence, mesdames et messieurs, à vos grades et rangs respectifs, La Grande Muraille Verte est considérée comme l’œuvre de restauration des terres la plus complexe au monde. Sans doute la plus ambitieuse, à date. Ce programme est porté par un géant politique, l’Union africaine, dans une région, le Sahel, dont les potentialités sont, à regret, éclipsées par un récit historiquement négatif. Les onze pays membres de l’Agence Panafricaine de la Grande Muraille Verte totalisent une population avoisinant le demi-milliard d’habitants, avec des projections dépassant le milliard et demi d’ici la fin du siècle. Comment nourrir, éduquer, soigner, vêtir et répondre aux besoins d’une population, plutôt jeune et exigeante, dont les revenus dépendent essentiellement de ressources naturelles ? Des ressources par ailleurs agressées au quotidien par les aléas d’un climat hostile et d’un environnement austère. La GMV, c’est planter l’espoir auprès de cette jeunesse pétillante de volonté. A la fois ubiquiste et opportuniste, ce Programme doit aider à transformer les défis en opportunités : le soleil, le vent, les espaces et les terres, les points d’eau et même les dunes. Transformer les défis démographiques en dividendes. Prévenir des ruptures de charge et des crises, notamment en milieux rural et péri-urbain. L’une des plus grandes forces de la GMV, c’est l’engagement politique des États, au plus haut niveau, manifesté aujourd’hui encore par votre Sommet. D’accepter de mutualiser vos efforts, de rechercher la complémentarité, et de mobiliser votre organisation continentale, ainsi que vos instances sous-régionales. C’est inédit pour un programme de terrain, pour être souligné. Cet engagement porte ses fruits. Lentement certes, mais sûrement, la communauté internationale convient que la gestion des ressources naturelles du Sahel doit s’inscrire parmi les réponses aux défis mondiaux à savoir : la désertification, la sécheresse, le changement climatique, la perte de la biodiversité et leurs corollaires économiques, sociaux et bien entendu environnementaux. Directement ou indirectement, la GMV contribuera à la paix, la sécurité et à la stabilité du Sahel. La vraie bataille du Sahel, c’est celle du développement durable et de la gouvernance inclusive. Traiter les symptômes sans s’attaquer à la racine du mal, ne guérira point le malade. Le Sahel est avant tout malade de la dégradation de son socle productif, de ses sols érodés et son environnement détruit, à ajouter à l’espoir évaporé de ses jeunes. En 2020, un bilan des dix premières années de la GMV a donné des résultats plutôt mitigés. Pour parvenir aux objectifs fixés en 2030, il faut restaurer, annuellement, plus de 8 millions d’hectares de terres agricoles, pastorales, de points d’eau et d’espaces naturels. Des investissements annuels à hauteur de 4 milliards de dollars US sont nécessaires. La bonne nouvelle, c’est que c’est faisable. Le faire, c’est répondre aux immenses besoins de développement de la région. Mais c’est aussi contribuer aux objectifs mondiaux de lutte contre le changement climatique, contre la désertification, et répondre à bien d’autres objectifs du développement durable. L’autre bonne nouvelle, c’est la promesse de financement, sur plus de 19 milliards de dollars pour l’horizon 2025. Nous sommes honorés de travailler avec vous, leaders Sahéliens, mais aussi avec le Président français, Emmanuel Macron, le Prince Charles du Royaume-Uni et bien d’autres. Nous pensons que l’heure est maintenant venue de passer à l’échelle et mener des actions concrètes : soutien aux communautés ; gérer les écosystèmes et booster la résilience d’économies fragiles. Accélérer et simplifier les procédures de décaissement, tout en assurant la plus grande transparence de gestion. Accroître la capacité et la qualité d’absorption des ressources. Les pays de la GMV voudront peut-être intégrer, si ce n’est déjà le cas, la GMV dans leurs Plans Nationaux de développement. Chaque pays voudra peut-être développer un programme national multisectoriel, intégré et cohérent par rapport aux piliers de l’Accélérateur de la GMV. Ceci permettra d’accélérer la mobilisation des ressources promises par les partenaires. Pour parvenir à nos ambitions, dans une région faisant face à autant de défis, les partenaires techniques et financiers devraient pour leur part considérer adopter des procédures souples et accélérées. Les sociétés sahéliennes attendent, avec une impatience compréhensible, la concrétisation des annonces de Sommets en actions sur le terrain. Pour y parvenir, une réforme institutionnelle est nécessaire. Le Conseil des Ministres a déjà adopté une décision dans ce sens. Un renforcement du capital humain de l’agence régionale semble urgent. Les structures actuelles mèneront difficilement leurs missions de suivi-évaluation et de pilotage d’un programme d’une telle dimension. Certains estiment qu’à terme, la GMV pourrait être la plus imposante œuvre humaine sur terre. L’Afrique a fourni plusieurs trésors à l’humanité. Ses civilisations, ses cosmogonies, ses technologies et ses pyramides, entre autres. Avec la GMV, l’Afrique peut montrer qu’elle n’a pas fini de surprendre le monde. Je vous remercie.

Allocution du Secrétaire Exécutif de la CNULCD au Sommet de la GMV
Sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing, for health & land

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, one fact has never been more evident – our world, our planet and our lives are inextricably interconnected. There are very few issues that can be considered simply “health problems,” as nearly every aspect of life is connected to other societal, economic and environmental issues. While we recognize the negative impact of tobacco on our health, we tend to think less frequently about the economic impact of tobacco use on health costs and productivity losses. What is even less well known is how tremendously destructive tobacco cultivation and tobacco use is for the environment – on land, water and air.

Sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing, for health & land
Sahel the most resilient place to global warming in the future?

There is growing evidence of regreening in the Sahel. It is widespread. It cuts across the entire area, and it’s dynamic. In fact, almost all of West Africa is experiencing this regreening that is considered the ultimate weapon in the fight against global warming. Sahelians also growing valuable trees that act as natural air conditioners, provide food and ertilize the land in the Sahel in ways that could be making a difference to resilience that is far better than elsewhere in the world.

Sahel the most resilient place to global warming in the future?