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Excellencies, Ministers, Colleagues, Ladies and gentlemen, As we gather here in beautiful Dakar for the eighteenth session of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment, large parts of the African continent are wilting. The Greater Horn of Africa is suffering its longest drought in 40 years. 50 million people in the region are suffering from acute food security with many heading to famine. The dry spell is not sparing North Africa: Morocco, Algeria. Last year, it was Madagascar and parts of Southern Africa. The year before, the Sahel. There is hardly any year where floods, drought or loss of fertile land is not hitting the continent. Millions are left without shelter, food, water or barely enough firewood to cook their meal. And yet, Africa is still not addressing the root causes of land degradation. Many governments still do not see desertification, land degradation and drought as a top priority. It seems paradoxical to want to achieve food security, to combat poverty and to reduce vulnerabilities while at the same time neglecting its soils and productive land. Ministries in charge of land and drought are still largely under-resourced. Local authorities are not empowered to tackle the Herculean task of restoring degraded lands. Yet, Africa is arguably the most vulnerable region to drought, desertification and loss of productive land. The continent has lost 65% of its productive land over the last seventy years. Meanwhile the population has grown by 600%. Climate change will further accelerate this disruption. In some parts of Africa, such as the Sahel and Somalia, we have already reached the tipping point. Are we not tired of seeing children dying? Are we not tired of seeing people leave their lives behind? Are we not tired of the scramble for emergency aid? For sure, I am. As a human being, as an international civil servant. But above all as a proud African. Many African nations have braced with droughts for decades. But are ready to confront another dry spell? Because there will be another drought. And another. And another. Because the next drought will occur sooner than we thought. In fact, the next drought may already be here. Droughts are often followed by floods. Or vice versa. Droughts and floods are twins. Desertification is robbing our fertile land. Drought and Land degradation are eroding our economy. Deteriorating our well-being and quality of life. Wreaking havoc on our social fabric, which is perhaps for Africa, the most valuable asset there is. Excellence, mesdames et messieurs les ministres, Chers délégués, Mesdames et messieurs, L’Afrique, plus que toute autre région du monde, fait face à des défis multiformes. Pour autant, elle ne plie pas. L’Afrique résiste. Stoïquement. L’Afrique a fait preuve de résilience face à des phénomènes historiques sans précédent. Dépeuplée, dépecée, cannibalisée, elle a, tel un rock, résisté. Elle est debout. Certes touchée, mais pas coulée. Loin s’en faut. Les événements contemporains ont montré qu’en dépit de la faiblesse de ses moyens matériels, l’Afrique sait faire preuve de résilience, y compris face aux grandes pandémies. En matière de gestion des ressources naturelles et de lutte contre les changements climatiques, l’Afrique a peut-être une autre voie, une autre stratégie à adopter. Un changement de narratif demande un changement d’approche. Une aspiration d’émergence et de prospérité plutôt qu’une approche de lutte contre la pauvreté. Dépasser la borne de départ. Décoller du starting block. Ouvrir les vannes du potentiel des ressources naturelles. A la fois les richesses sous-terre ou au fonds des mers, et celles à ciel ouvert. Le soleil et le vent, les cours d’eau, la houle et la géothermie seront, peut-être, bientôt cotés aux bourses des valeurs «écologiques». Le monde se tourne vers l’hydrogène, cette énergie propre du futur. Or, les quatre coins d’Afrique dégagent un potentiel excédentaire en hydrogène vert ; l’électrolyse se ferait en utilisant, comme source d’énergie, le soleil, le vent et l’eau. Tous neutres en carbone. Sortir l’Afrique de sa pauvreté énergétique, par la grande porte de la neutralité carbone. Assurer le décollage industriel du continent, en suivant une autre voie que celle qui a conduit aux désastres cataclysmiques que le monde subit au quotidien. Il s’agit pour l’Afrique, d’arrêter de « dormir sur la natte des autres », pour paraphraser l’inoubliable Joseph Ki Zerbo du Burkina Faso. La richesse de l’Afrique en terres rares est un autre don de la Nature. En Afrique centrale et en Afrique australe notamment. Ces éléments si essentiels aux technologies vertes vendues à prix d’or sur le marché international. Par ailleurs, la diversité extraordinaire des écosystèmes est une autre des dimensions de cette richesse: de la forêt dense humide à la savane, des grands espaces ouverts, aux luxuriantes steppes. La disponibilité de grands espaces offre une amplitude extraordinaire pour la restauration des terres à grande échelle. Restaurer les terres, c’est rendre à celles-ci leur aptitude à produire pour nos besoins et les besoins de nos écosystèmes. Restaurer les terres, c’est créer de la richesse, lutter contre les vulnérabilités en construisant la résilience des écosystèmes et des populations. Restaurer les terres, c’est aussi réduire la quantité de carbone dans l’atmosphère, en stockant ce dernier dans le sol. Bref, la restauration des terres, la gestion rationnelle des forêts, comme la production d’énergie propre ou l’exploitation rationnelle des terres rares sont autant de mesure d’atténuation aux changements climatiques. L’atténuation aux changements climatiques doit donc être une priorité pour l’Afrique. Autant que l’adaptation. Un tel changement de narratif est vecteur d’investissements (publics et privés) dans des secteurs productifs tels que l’énergie, l’agro-foresterie ou encore l’éco-tourisme. Il s’agit de promouvoir la prospérité tout en préservant la nature. Il s’agit de promouvoir une croissance sobre en carbone. Il s’agit tout simplement de promouvoir le développement durable. L’Afrique, la presse n’en parle pas assez, joue un rôle pionnier dans la promotion des investissements en matière de restauration des terres. Au Sahel, la Grande muraille verte a pu mobiliser 19 milliards de dollars. En Côte d’Ivoire, l’initiative d’Abidjan en est à 2,5 milliards de dollars. D’autres initiatives comme AFR100 du NEPAD, montre la voie. La toute nouvelle initiative de restauration des terres en Afrique australe (SADC), est plus que prometteuse. L’initiale de restauration des terres du Moyen Orient, concerne plusieurs pays d’Afrique. Elle promet plusieurs dizaines de milliards de dollars. La Earth Foundation de Bezos annonce un milliard de dollars pour la restauration des terres en Afrique. La liste n’est pas exhaustive. Elle est cependant une démonstration concrète du leadership africain dans ce domaine crucial. Leadership qu’il faut célébrer et renforcer. Les agendas des terres, du climat et de la biodiversité étant fortement interconnectés, une approche globale et intégrée est fortement recommandée. C’est ainsi qu’à UNCCD, nous appelons de tous nos vœux pour des résultats concrets à la COP27 du climat à Sharm-El-Sheikh, et à la COP15 de la biodiversité à Montréal. Avec les résultats de la COP15 de UNCCD qui s’est déjà tenue en mai à Abidjan, la communauté internationale disposerait ainsi d’un corpus juridique cohérent. Ensemble, nous réussirons. Je vous remercie.
Dear colleagues, Alarmed again by the worldwide extreme heat-wave, drought and water scarcity, the world is at a critical moment. We are at the critical important moment to move forward from the COP commitments and decisions to actions. Among them is the decision to further scientific guidance. But the major task of this Committee on Science and Technology (CST) Bureau meeting is the renewal of Science-Policy Interface (SPI). 217 applications received – symbolizes the raising awareness of the importance of Land and drought issues and the interlinkage between land, and climate change and food, water and energy of our daily life. This is a fundamental step to ensure highly competitive and qualified, full geographically represented and gender balanced expertise to join in the UNCCD’s science policy interface and to dedicate to Land and Drought agenda. So I have three key messages related to that: First, Keep addressing key bottlenecks that require focused science if we are to help countries address DLDD, achieve LDN, and enhance drought resistance Second, Consider innovation, because innovation starts with current science I see some young scientists around the table - I hope the promising young generation could also play a role to bring more innovative views in the process of science policy interfacing. Last but not least - Do all you can to achieve gender parity in the SPI membership. It will not be easy, but is absolutely necessary. To enable synchronization with and joint efforts of all relevant processes, we need to improve cooperation with relevant scientific bodies and panels including major reports of IPCC, IPBES, ITPS, IDMP and UNEP-IRP. I am glad to know, there are also quite some female scientists. This a good basis for you to achieve gender parity in the SPI membership, which will not be easy, but is absolutely necessary. I am glad that the CST bureau will also discuss on the CST’s intersessional workplan, including improvement of the Role of CST and SPI in translating science into policy and communication messages to general public. We all know without involvement of public, there will be no transition to sustainable development. I am looking forward you discussion and guidance on how we can maximize participation of the Science Technology Correspondents (STCs) into the work of CST and CRIC. The STCs are working on science on ground, who are understanding more on the social economic and ecological realities, scientific demand, and challenges in the communities. Their voice need be heard, their contributions are of valuable for transition on ground. I wish you a successful meeting.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.
Honorable Ministers, colleagues, and friends. Firstly. Thank you. It is a great pleasure being here – even if virtually. The Sahel is seen as the crucible of existential challenges. Irregular migration, armed conflicts, non-state actors, terrorism and organized crime, as well as poverty and food insecurity. Yet amazing things can happen if we have the commitment and passion of political leaders. With faith and investment in the ingenuity of the people. And with a bold and joint international response and actions. The Great Green Wall is such an example! True, in the back of our minds, we have always thought of the Great Green Wall as an impossible dream. But that is no longer the case. And we must adjust our mindsets. Slowly but surely, the Great Green Wall Initiative is regreening the Sahel; restoring degraded lands and providing decent livelihoods for its people; snaking the Sahel all the way from Senegal in the West to Djibouti in the East; restoring degraded lands and providing jobs and opportunities for millions of people in Africa. In January 2021, US$ 19 billion has been pledged at the One Planet Summit. This is a huge commitment from the international community. The partners committed themselves to work at an accelerated pace. We have collectively agreed to a harmonized results framework. National coalitions are being set up. There is a real sense of buzz about the Great Green Wall. In Africa and around the world. And that is critical. In a world that looks at the Sahel region and sees only despair, the Great Green Wall offers hope. In a world struggling to work out what “building back better”, or climate resilience or sustainable development or nature-based solution really looks like, the Great Green Wall makes tangible and practical sense. The concept of the GGW works because it addresses the loss of natural resources - as the root cause of a myriad of other challenges. But it also works because it is rewriting the narrative of the Sahel - restoring lost livelihoods and generating jobs and income for the people. There is bold African leadership. There is a plan to harness the potential of the region and its people. And the international community has rallied and is getting coordinated. The 11 GGW countries have a huge role to play, to make it happen. The good news is, it can be done. It must be done. It will be done. And today we are here to discuss how we will get it done – faster and most effectively. Pipelines of bankable projects are emerging, though I have to admit, projects are only slowly emerging. As your loyal and unwavering partner, the UNCCD is committed to help sweep away the many bottlenecks to action at the national level. More than a year has passed since the pledges were made. However, implementation remains scanty. There are multiple administrative hurdles that are slowing us down; bureaucratic issues are preventing people of the Sahel from having access to resources they badly need. These challenges must be overcome quickly, if we want to turn the tide on the vicious circle observed in the Sahel. For long, we have been advising to bring together honorable environment with treasury and planning Ministers to unlock some of the challenges that have been observed. Indeed, we hope that countries will use an “all of government” approach to getting it done – faster and with more direct benefits to the people of the Region. Allow me to insist on the role of Ministers of Finance, Economy or Planning. The pledges made last year will be delivered with the full participation of fund authorization officers at the national level. Through an integrated approach where different sectoral departments will be brought together: from agriculture to the environment; from energy to livestock; from local authorities to civil society and research. The GGW belongs to all: youth; women; farmers and pastoralists. In short, the GGW will be achieved with the people of the Sahel. Or will never be. Thank you all for being here. Together, I am sure we can make it happen. Thank you.