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Opening remarks at the International Drought Resilience Alliance launch

Excellencies, dear colleagues and friends, Drought is a global challenge, which no nation can solve on its own. Because of climate change, drought is becoming more frequent and longer lasting, with devastating impacts on all sectors of society, from agriculture and energy to transportation and tourism. An estimated 55 million people are directly affected by drought every year, putting the well-being of current and future generations at unacceptable risk. It is my privilege, and I am delighted to welcome all of you to the launch of the International Drought Resilience Alliance (IDRA). The Alliance will catalyze momentum and mobilize resources for targeted actions to enhance drought resilience – thus shifting the focus from crises management to drought preparedness. Countries are joining forces to send a strong political signal that global partnerships can transform actions and mindsets to enhance drought resilience and reduce unnecessary suffering. I would like to start by thanking His Excellency Mr. Pedro Sanchez, President of Spain, and His Excellency Mr. Macky Sall, President of Senegal for their leadership, commitment, and efforts to make the International Drought Resilience Alliance a reality.   Excellencies,   We are in a race for drought resilience —and it’s a race we can win. Drought is a natural hazard but does not have to lead to human disaster. The solutions are available, and we can create a drought resilient world by increasing our ambition, harnessing the political will, and joining forces to act together. I would now like to invite His Excellency Mr. Pedro Sanchez, President of Spain to give his opening remarks Thank you, Mr. President, I would now like to invite His Excellency Mr. Macky Sall, President of Senegal to give his opening remarks. Thank you, Mr. President  

Opening remarks at the International Drought Resilience Alliance launch
G20 joint environment and climate ministers’ meeting: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw

Achieving environment objectives towards sustainable recovery: Addressing land degradation for the achievement of the SDG15 and as leverage for climate solutions  Excellencies,  Ministers  Colleagues,  G20 members, and many others, have made a multitude of commitments to restore planetary health. These include targets on climate change, on land degradation, on biodiversity loss. But many of us just need to look out of our windows to see where commitments have gotten us.   When I look out of my window in Bonn, I see the rocky riverbed emerging as the Rhine drops lower by the day. What do others see? Drought in Italy’s Po region devastating the country’s breadbasket. Wildfires raging through France, Spain and Portugal, destroying forests, killing cattle. The list goes on.  Water and heat stress are driving down Europe’s crop forecasts – at a time when there are  major disruptions to global cereal supplies.   Energy production has been hit as lower water levels reduce nuclear and hydropower capacity – a problem that is also affecting China, as parts of the Yangtze dry up.   Meanwhile, over 40 per cent of the United States faced drought conditions in early August. Flooding in Australia cost the insurance industry billions of dollars. The Horn of Africa is suffering its worst drought in over 40 years, plunging millions into severe hunger and projecting a human cost of a cataclysmic magnitude.  Agriculture and the textile industries are significantly affected across the world. Cotton production is seriously affected, including in top producing countries such as India, China, Brazil, the U.S. with dire effects on the economy.   Promises and commitments have not gotten us very far and we are in the midst of convergent crises. A crisis of climate change. A crisis of food insecurity. A crisis of water scarcity. A crisis of degraded land. A crisis of declining nature. A crisis of energy.  These crises will intensify if we do nothing.   By 2030, an estimated 700 million people will be at risk of being displaced by drought. By 2040, one in four children could live in areas with extreme water shortages. By 2050, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population.  We cannot let this future come to pass. We must start acting on commitments, now.  This is the focus of the UNCCD: turning commitments into action. This means achieving land-degradation neutrality – including restoring land and helping drought-prone countries put in place drought-smart strategies.   The UNCCD supports, for instance, the Great Green Wall initiative, which aims to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, sequester 250 million tonnes of carbon and create 10 million green jobs in the Sahel by 2030.   Likewise the Saudi-led Middle East Green Initiative, aims to back regional nature-based solutions and plant billions of trees. Most recently, the 2.5 billion dollar Abidjan Legacy Programme launched by President Outtara at our 15th Conference of the Parties held in Abidjan under the leadership of Côte D’Ivoire, will help future-proof supply chains while tackling deforestation and climate change.  Which brings me to the G20’s Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats, which you launched two years ago. It is now up and running, hosted by the UNCCD Secretariat.   We have been working with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to operationalise the Global Initiative to support countries with their restoration efforts.  Friends,  Please allow me to dig a little deeper into how land restoration can serve as a climate solution, an energy solution, and indeed a solution to many challenges from boosting livelihoods to restoring nature.  Protecting and restoring land resources reduces emissions and sequesters carbon. It could provide over one-third of the cost-effective, land-based climate mitigation needed between now and 2030.   Ecosystem restoration is one of the quickest ways of boosting natural capital and carbon stocks.  Degraded farmlands abandoned worldwide are currently estimated at roughly 30 per cent of global cropland area. Options for bringing these lands back to productive life include rehabilitation for sustainable food and commodity production or rewilding for biodiversity and climate benefits.   Restoration is not the only route, however.   In Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, the biggest mitigation opportunities involve sustainable intensification practices that avoid ecosystem conversion.   Emissions can be reduced by improving the efficiency of inputs such as water, adopting sustainable soil and livestock management practices, shifting towards plant-based diets, and reducing food waste.  Food and commodity production systems that use diverse crops, animals and native biodiversity mimic natural processes that increase carbon storage.   Such efforts, and many more besides, will reduce emissions. They will also help communities adapt to climate impacts that are already locked in. They will deliver benefits across the whole sustainable development agenda.  This includes reducing competition between sectors for scarce water resources – which matters greatly for renewable energy.   As I mentioned earlier, rivers running dry spells bad news for hydropower and transport. Slowing climate change is one way to ensure that predictable rainfall feeds rivers and reservoirs, allowing power and agriculture to draw enough water.  But there are other ways to unite the nature and energy agendas, such as building renewal energy farms in agricultural landscapes.  There are many examples that already show the unification of the agendas in action.  In the US, The Silicon Ranch Corporation combines clean electricity generation with carbon sequestration, ecosystem restoration and rural economic revitalization. In 2020, a partnership between White Oak Pastures and Silicon Ranch began regenerative grazing and land management practices on 950 solar farm hectares in southwest Georgia.   In China, Astronergy/Chint Solar has transformed abandoned agricultural land into a solar park where crops are grown around solar panels. Over 25 years, the power generation is expected to be 4.9 billion kilowatts, meeting the electricity demands of 400,000 people.  In Namibia, a Rangeland Management Policy and Strategy is guiding the restoration of degraded rangelands by targeted bush thinning. Accumulated biomass from thinning is then processed into animal fodder, charcoal, biochar, building material, or wood chips. One assessment suggesting that bush control and biomass utilization could generate net benefits of around USD 3 billion over 25 years, and support 10,000 jobs annually.  Friends,  All of this goes to say that we don’t just have the commitments in place. We have the solutions at our fingertips. What has been lacking is the will to go beyond the commitment phase – beyond the ad hoc solution here and there,  to widespread systemic change.  So, today I challenge you to look out the window, or look at the news, and ask yourself a simple question: is this the kind of world I want to live in? The answer can only be “no”. The response can only be to summon up the will to act.  I urge you to begin sincerely implementing the G20 initiative’s target of a 50 per cent reduction in degraded land by 2040, but also to make plans to exceed it – both in terms of timeline and scope.  I urge you to invest in restoring land, so that it boosts water storage, reverses biodiversity loss and increases food production. To back sustainable agriculture that uses less land, water, and harmful inputs. To start changing society’s unhealthy relationships with food, fodder and fibre. I urge you, above all else, to act.  The present is not what we envisioned. But the future is still ours to shape. We must start shaping it now.  Thank you. 

G20 joint environment and climate ministers’ meeting: Remarks by Ibrahim Thiaw
UNCCD Executive Secretary welcomes Simon Stiell’s appointment to lead UN Climate Change Convention

Bonn, 15 August 2022 – Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), welcomed the announcement of Grenada’s former minister for climate resilience and the environment Simon Stiell as the next Executive Secretary to lead the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Stiell’s appointment was announced earlier today by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres following the endorsement by the UNFCCC Bureau. Ibrahim Thiaw, who in addition to his ongoing functions as UNCCD Executive Secretary has also served as UNFCCC Acting Executive Secretary since 17 July 2022 and was a member of the team that pre-selected Simon Stiell, said: “I warmly congratulate Simon Stiell on his appointment and look forward to his leadership in the years ahead and to working closely with him in preparing for the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh this November. As someone who hails from a vulnerable Caribbean island nation, Simon Stiell knows first-hand the profound and immediate impacts of climate change on finite land and water resources. At a time when we are seeing record-breaking heatwaves, severe droughts and devastating wildfires across many parts of the world, we must more than ever unite our efforts to build resilience and protect people and planet.”. “Land and climate are inextricably linked. Sustainable land management can be a big part of the climate solution that can help keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees—we cannot afford to miss this chance. Every fraction of a degree of temperature rise is a matter of life and death to millions, especially the most vulnerable people. Yet, no nation is immune, and all nations can work together to restore land and boost resilience to drought,” Mr Thiaw added. For more information, contact: UNCCD Press Office, Tel.: +49-228-815-2820 or E-mail: press@unccd.int About UNCCD The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the global vision and voice for land. We unite governments, scientists, policymakers, private sector and communities around a shared vision and global action to restore and manage the world’s land for the sustainability of humanity and the planet. Much more than an international treaty signed by 197 parties, UNCCD is a multilateral commitment to mitigating today’s impacts of land degradation and advancing tomorrow’s land stewardship in order to provide food, water, shelter and economic opportunity to all people in an equitable and inclusive manner.

UNCCD Executive Secretary welcomes Simon Stiell’s appointment to lead UN Climate Change Convention
Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw on his designation as UNFCCC Acting Executive Secretary

The Secretary-General of the United Nations has designated me to be the Acting Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), effective 17 July 2022, and until a new Executive Secretary is appointed. I am confident that with the support of UNFCCC management and staff, the continuity will be uninterrupted during this transitional period to deliver on the ambitious agenda ahead of UNFCCC COP27. I also remain committed to ensuring that there will be no disruption in the dispensing of my functions as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and, particularly, the delivery of the mandate the UNCCD Parties have entrusted me with at COP15.  I look forward to working with the Secretary-General and UNFCCC Parties to facilitate a smooth transition to the next UNFCCC leadership and extend my thanks to the UNCCD COP15 President, the Bureau and staff for the willingness to share my time with our sister Convention.

Statement by Ibrahim Thiaw on his designation as UNFCCC Acting Executive Secretary
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