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UNCCD Land Anthem inspires a Moment for Nature at UN Headquarters

The UNCCD Land Anthem “Born from the Land’, performed by the Land Ambassador Ricky Kej, became an emotional curtain-raiser for the high-level thematic debate "Moment for Nature" that took place on 19 July 2022 in the General Assembly Hall of the UN Headquarters in New York. The debate focused on ways to achieve the Paris Agreement's 1.5-degree target and ensure humanity's future by promoting greater coordination of the global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect biodiversity on land and sea, restore life to degraded land and soils, combat pollution and enable circular economies. Somewhere along our journey as humans, we have forgotten that we are not the only species, we need to live in absolute peace and absolute harmony with every single entity of nature, co-existing with the land we walk on and the air we breathe" –  Ricky Kej The two-time Grammy Award winner and a long-standing UNCCD Land Ambassador, Ricky Kej embodies and inspires positive change through the emotional language of art and music. The UNCCD Land Anthem that he created together with another Land Ambassador Baaba Maal and other musicians from Canada, India, the USA, Senegal, South Africa and Vietnam has already been produced in eight languages. The song that celebrates Life on Land has been performed at key international events, such as the UNCCD COPs and the Desertification and Drought Day global observances. You can download the lyrics in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian, and watch the original release on our YouTube channel.

UNCCD Land Anthem inspires a Moment for Nature at UN Headquarters
Commonwealth takes a bold step towards climate resilience

The Commonwealth Living Lands Charter adopted on 25 June 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda, at the conclusion of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) is a bold step to build the resilience of nearly 2.5 billion Commonwealth citizens, or one-third of the global population. The Commonwealth Living Lands Charter: A Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands (CALL) expresses the will by leaders of the 54 member states of the Commonwealth to “voluntarily dedicate a ‘Living Land’ to future generations of every country with assured prosperity, sustenance and security.” It will be backed by CALL implementation plans to be developed by all Commonwealth nations. The Charter makes the strongest commitment yet to work on the global challenges of climate change, the loss of biodiversity and land degradation in a coordinated and synergistic way. Commonwealth leaders underlined the need to build natural resilience through biodiversity conservation in the face of climate change. The Charter also represents a significant contribution towards the achievement of global voluntary commitments to restore 1 billion hectares of degraded lands by 2030, with half of these pledges made under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Already, under the Land Degradation Neutrality targets, 21 Commonwealth countries committed to restoring 110 million hectares. Speaking on behalf of UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw at the high-level launch event in Kigali, Louise Baker, Managing Director of the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, said: “The Living Lands charter offers Commonwealth countries a roadmap for greater resilience. In the face of climate change, it offers adaption and hope. In the face of environmental degradation, it offers restored ecosystems. In the face of food insecurity, it offers more production without more costly inputs. And in the face of economic turmoil, it offers reward. For every dollar invested we are seeing rates of return of at least 7-30 dollars from restoration.” Ms Baker acknowledged the leadership roles Commonwealth members are playing in large-scale land restoration projects, such as the Great Green Wall in the Sahel and the G20 Initiative on Land and Terrestrial Ecosystems. She also stressed that finance and a multisectoral, all of government approach will be key to getting “a tough job” done of restoring degrading land, saving biological diversity and limiting the Earth’s warming. “The Global Mechanism of UNCCD has launched a partnership for project preparation to work with strategic partners like the Commonwealth and with its Climate Finance Access Hub – and climate finance advisers – to deliver a pipeline of viable and bankable projects – that deliver for land and climate at the same time. The Global Mechanism is there to help nations put land at the heart of climate action,” Ms Baker added. According to UNCCD's flagship Global Land Outlook 2 report released in April 2022, up to 40% of all ice-free land is already degraded – meaning its benefits have been lost to varying degrees, with dire consequences for climate, biodiversity and livelihoods. Business as usual will, by 2050, result in degradation of 16 million square kilometers (almost the size of South America), with 69 gigatonnes of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. Land restoration is a powerful and cost-effective tool to address the interconnected climate, biodiversity and land crises, with economic returns estimated at US$ 125-140 trillion every year - as much as 1.5 times global GDP in 2021 (US$ 93 trillion).

Commonwealth takes a bold step towards climate resilience
Latest climate report underscores urgent need to act on drought

The State of the Global Climate in 2021 report released on 18 May 2022 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) confirms that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record. According to the Report, drought affected many parts of the world, including the Horn of Africa, Canada, the western United States, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey. Eastern Africa is facing the very real prospect that the rains will fail for a fourth consecutive season, placing Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia in a drought of a length not experienced in the last 40 years. It states further that humanitarian agencies are warning of devastating impacts on people and livelihoods in the region. In South America, drought caused big agricultural losses and disrupted energy production and river transport. Drought resilience is at the top of the agenda of the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) underway in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. “The catastrophic effects of multi-year droughts witnessed in every region of the world in the last decade demand action now. Unless we work together to prepare, respond and build resilience to drought, the impacts on our food, water and energy at a time when the global population is growing would create unimaginable social and environmental upheavals,” says Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary. The WMO report shows that we may be closer to over-shooting the desired temperature rise unless drastic measures are taken. It further states that the average global temperature in 2021 was about 1.11 (± 0.13) °C above the pre-industrial level. It calls for countries to scale up the adoption and diffusion of renewable energy massively. The report comes on the heels of stark warnings issued in two reports released earlier this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that we had up to 2030 to take actions to get us on track to staying within a temperature rise of no more than 1.5 degrees. The second edition of the Global Land Outlook released less than a month ago by UNCCD identified some of the human impacts on people and the land they depend on under a business-as-usual scenario. An area almost the size of South America would be degraded by 2050. About 12-14 per cent of natural areas, farmland, pastures and grazing land would under persistent, long-term declines in productivity. And an additional 69 gigatonnes of carbon would be emitted into the atmosphere through land use change and soil degradation. What’s more, droughts would increase in frequency, intensity and spread. The Drought in Numbers 2022 report released last week by UNCCD, revealed that the number and duration of droughts has increased by 29 per cent since 2000 and that unless urgent action is taken, droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population by 2050. UNCCD COP15, which concludes this Friday, 20 May, is expected to adopt decisions to accelerate global action to restore one billion hectares of degrading land, build robust measures for early action on drought, and to strengthen governance at all levels to facilitate the flow of technology and investment where needed.

Latest climate report underscores urgent need to act on drought
Land-based solutions offer a key opportunity for climate mitigation

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released today sounds the alarm on the urgent action needed to keep the 1.5 degree temperature rise limit within reach, with global climate commitments falling drastically short of the target. At the same time, the IPCC assessment highlights the important role of land in tackling rising greenhouse gas emissions. “To keep the 1.5-degree limit agreed in Paris within reach, we need to cut global emissions by 45 percent this decade. But current climate pledges would mean a 14 percent increase in emissions,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his statement on the release of the Panel’s Working Group III AR6 Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change report. In addition to major cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, major cuts in other sectors will also be necessary. Land contributes a quarter of all emissions. At the same time, land-based ecosystems absorbed around 30 per cent of the carbon emissions generated through human activity in the last decade and could provide 20 to 30 percent of the mitigation required to ensure global warming stays below 1.5oC towards 2050 [1]. “The latest IPCC report offers a sobering, yet hopeful assessment, clearly showing that land-based solutions can provide a significant contribution to global efforts to tackle climate change,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). “If managed sustainably, land can deliver large-scale greenhouse gas emission reductions. But this will require us to urgently rethink the way we approach agriculture, forestry and other land use activities,” he added. “The Sixth Assessment Report provides an important context to consider future global policy action on issues such as land restoration and early action on drought, which are on the agenda of the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD to be held on 9-20 May in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire,” Thiaw observed. The IPCC report documents that net greenhouse gas emissions rose 12% between 2010 and 2019 and were 54% (21 GtCO2-eq) higher than in 1990 [2]. Overall, emissions from the land sector – agriculture, forests, land use and land use change – fell from 13 to 11 percent of the total emissions across all sectors during this period. “There is an urgency to restore the one billion hectares of degraded lands by 2030 to cut land-based emissions massively. We must strengthen the land’s ability to absorb and store carbon emissions – and that means ensuring it remains healthy. What’s more, restoring land back to health will also enable us to simultaneously increase food production from existing agricultural land and restore ground water sources that we are losing. – UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw The report warns that the land’s natural ability to hold and remove carbon is not infinite. Moreover, the carbon sink potential of land declines with every passing year of increased warming. More so, if we fail to take the actions needed to make the land resilient to climate change. The report lays out that there are both synergies and trade-offs between climate action and the pursuit of other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), many of which are tied to competing demands for land. For example, the pressure to convert natural forests or grasslands as demand for food, water and urban growth increases, land-based emissions may also increase. This is particularly the case for developing countries. This indicates it will be important to recover degraded land. To do this effectively, however, the obstacles to the effective use of land-based actions, including insecure land tenure and fragmentation in land ownership, must be overcome. And it will mean ensuring future land management is sustainable to avoid reversals, such as restored land being degraded once more. The IPCC confirms that addressing land degradation can have multiple synergies with the SDGs, particularly when supported by frameworks designed to help manage trade-offs while promoting responsible governance and the involvement of local communities and indigenous peoples, particularly when supported by frameworks such as Land Degradation Neutrality within the UNCCD [2]. To realize the opportunities land provides while addressing the challenges of the interaction of climate change and land degradation, UNCCD is developing policy tools to ensure future land use planning fully integrates municipal, agricultural and conservation objectives. In essence, doing the right thing in the right places at the right scales. The Convention also promotes policies that put carbon back where it belongs, in the soil, where it contributes to biodiversity, land productivity and even water security in the face of increasing drought. The Working Group III report is the last of the three reports issued by IPCC as part of the sixth assessment of the status of climate change. Working Group I Report, titled AR6 Climate Change 2022: The Physical Science Basis, was released in August 2021. Working Group II Report, titled, AR6 Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, was released in February 2022. The Synthesis Report will be the last of the AR6 products and is scheduled to be released in September 2022. References:  [1] IPCC, 2022: Technical Summary. In Climate Change 2022: Mitigation Of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Technical Summary  [2] IPCC, 2022: Summary for Policymakers. Climate Change 2022: Mitigation Of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  For more information, contact: Xenya Scanlon, UNCCD Chief of Communications, xscanlon@unccd.int Wagaki Wischnewski, UNCCD Head of News and Media, press@unccd.int

Land-based solutions offer a key opportunity for climate mitigation
Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy appointed G20 Initiative Coordination Office Director

Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy of India has been appointed as the Director of the Coordination Office of the G20 Global Initiative on Reducing Land Degradation and Enhancing Conservation of Terrestrial Habitats based at UNCCD headquarters in Bonn, Germany. Dr. Thummarukudy brings to this position over three decades of progressive senior management experience and technical expertise in land restoration issues. He has most recently served as the acting Head of the Disasters and Conflicts Programme at the United Nations Environment Programme, where he implemented a portfolio of over 100 million USD, focusing on ecosystem-based disaster reduction and partnership development. An internationally renowned expert in disaster response, he played a key role in addressing the environmental aftermath of many major conflicts and disasters, implementing projects in over 35 countries. Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Thummarukudy served as Environmental Advisor to Shell Group in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur. He was also a Beahr’s fellow at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Thummarukudy is also a well-known author in his native Malayalam language.

Dr. Muralee Thummarukudy appointed G20 Initiative Coordination Office Director