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The 15th session of the Committee on Science and Technology convenes at UNCCD COP15 

Announced by the Chair of the CST, Mr. Masuku Bongani from Eswatini, the CST15 of the UNCCD opened on 11 May 2022 with UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw highlighting that science has a unique role in creating sustainable future of land resources by providing evidence, informing the decision makers and mobilizing action.  Mr. Thiaw recognized the commitment of the Bureau of the CST and the Science Policy Interface (SPI) members over the 2020-2021 biennium to enhance the scientific foundation for policy development, as evidenced in the assessments 1) on the role of integrated land use planning and landscape management in achieving Land Degradation Neutrality; 20 on approaches for monitoring and assessment of the resilience of the ecosystems and population to drought and 30 the comprehensive analysis on two IPCC reports. The future work programme of the SPI for 2022-2023 includes assessments on sustainable land use systems and historical regional and global aridity trends and future projections.  In the first plenary of the CST15, after the adoption of the agenda, the Committee on Science and Technology commenced its thematic dialogue with the SPI on the outcomes achieved in the biennium 2020-2021, starting with the evidence resulting from its two assessments on the integrated land use planning and landscape management, and the assessment on resilience of ecosystems and population to drought. To continue work on these two key topics, the CST contact group was established and held its first meeting to discuss the draft decision text to be submitted to the COP for consideration.   On 12 May, the second plenary of the CST continued a thematic dialogue on the SPI’s comprehensive analysis on the IPCC reports. A follow-up plenary discussion reconvened on the issue of science-policy-interfacing modalities, accessibility to and dissemination of the best practices and the proposed SPI future work programme.   The afternoon session of the fourth plenary of the CST15 addressed the joint report by the CST and the CRIC on reporting modalities on land degradation and drought for implementation of the UNCCD Strategic Framework 2018-2030, which guides parties in the next cycle of national reporting. The second topic of the 4th plenary is the procedural matters on the programme work of the CST16. The CST-CRIC joint contact group meeting continues its work on 13 May until completion of all draft decisions. Then the CST contact group will continue its negotiation.  The last plenary of the CST15 is scheduled in the afternoon of 13 May to adopt the report to the COP including the CST draft decisions and the vice chairs of the CST16.  The chair of the CST will be elected at the final meeting of the COP15.  To promote the key role of scientific evidence-based policy-oriented recommendations in UNCCD implementation, drought resilience and sustainable land management, the Science-Policy Interface will be hosting a Science-Day at the UNCCD COP5 Rio Conventions Pavilion on Saturday 14 May.   

The 15th session of the Committee on Science and Technology convenes at UNCCD COP15 
Sparking global land restoration in communities

Learning from Brazil’s innovative model to reverse desertification in Caatinga Brazil’s vast rainforest, rich in biodiversity, has captured the imagination of people around the world and attracted large-scale financing from donors committed to preserving this unique ecosystem. But what about the other, lesser-known or naturally endowed biomes?  The Caatinga drylands occupy 11 percent of the country, an area about 100 million hectares in the northeast of Brazil. It is home to over 34 million people. Preserving the unique resources in this region is vital because drylands are highly susceptible to land degradation. In 2016, Brazil established the Recovery Units of Degraded Areas and Reduction of Climate Vulnerability (URAD) initiative to address the main drivers of land degradation in the Caatinga. The project, which in the long run will be financed from the moneys generated by domestic environmental fines, received a start-up funding of USD$1 million from Brazil’s Climate Fund and US$9 million from the international community. Under the program, a recovery area is defined by its watershed. The local communities are mobilized to restore their watershed. They get support in the form of resources and training needed. The start-up cost per family for carrying out a watershed recovery is estimated at US$ 8,000. About 30 to 40 families take part in each project. The first activities aim to produce highly tangible results, such as restoring a water source. Direct results are they key to keeping the enthusiasm among community members going and to motivating them to take further actions. The first URAD community-level interventions were completed in half the estimated time. In turn, local people started to have confidence in government projects. The interest to get involved and enthusiasm in the projects grew and spread throughout other communities. But the watershed recovery project is rooted in more than providing direct benefits to communities. The participation of local communities is a guiding principle. Studies show that environmental actions that reduce the population's climate vulnerability are more likely to succeed when they involve local communities in decision-making to create sustainable value chains, generate employment and improve the quality of life. The URAD watershed recovery initiative is also founded and fully integrated in a sustainability model. The environmental, social and economic interventions are taken seriously with specific results targeted. For URAD, environmental actions aim to conserve soil, recover spring water, preserve biodiversity and improve the conditions for food production. Social actions focus on meeting the water, energy and sanitary security of the communities. Beekeeping and integrated crop-livestock-forest systems are examples of the sustainable activities being encouraged to meet livelihood needs – the economic side. The project is also designed to generate short-, medium and long-term needs. This is essential in project planning because political leaders, who are the main decision-makers, often mostly care about and invest depending on the short-term political gains or losses of what they do. Communities, on the other hand, are more willing to invest in actions that change their lives for the long haul. URAD’s short term goals were to recover water sources, contain soil erosion, reduce land degradation, mitigate the effects of drought and cut down soil and water pollution. In the medium-term, the productive capacity of the soil would recover, and help Brazil to fulfil its commitment to achieve land degradation neutrality. The conservation of the Caatinga is expected to improve the quality of life for the local people year by year, and reduce forced migration to urban areas. In the long-term term, the communities and their lands, plants, animals and natural resources are expected to adapt or become resilient to climate-change and it’s impacts. Brazil invests in the drylands because the URAD strategy has the potential to transform the reality for thousands of rural communities. With community-owned successes at the core of each intervention, the new model to reverse desertification has every chance to succeed. Learn More: Brazil sets up a novel model to reverse desertification

Sparking global land restoration in communities
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
The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods

Communities all over the world have suffered some of the most brutal effects of drought and flooding this year. Flash floods in western Europe, eastern and central Asia and southern African. And catastrophic drought in Australia, southern Africa, southern Asia, much of Latin America, western North America and Siberia are cases in point. The impacts extend well beyond the individual events. For example, the rise in food insecurity in the southern African region and unprecedented wildfires in North America, Europe and Central Asia.   What is going on? This is much more than bad weather in some cases, and is increasingly so. The UNCCD organized an event at COP26, the Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom, to focus attention on the land-water-climate nexus. The science and policy responses discussed make it clear that human decisions exacerbated by climate change are significantly – and arguably, catastrophically – amplifying the impact of drought and floods.  The discussion encouraged more strategic land use decisions. Decisions that ensure what we do where, and in particular, what we plant where, mitigatesthe impacts of both extremes, be it too much or too little rainfall. It also shed light on how important it is to have healthy soils. Soils that are replete with organic matter will obtain “more crop per drop”, and reduce the risks associated with drought and flooding.  Extreme events, including both droughts and floods are on the rise. With more land projected to be get drier and more and more people living in drylandsin the future, the discussions centered on the shift more than 60 countries are making from “reactive” response to droughts and floods to “proactive” planning and risk management designed to build resilience. Participants from Malawi, Pakistan, Honduras, Grenada and Burkina Faso provided concrete examples of policy alignment and cross-sectorial approaches to implementation. Here is a quick overview of the highlights. Read more:  Land and drought

The weather alone cannot explain droughts and floods