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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.
At the start of the new academic year, the United Nations Regional Information Centre in Bonn together with UNCCD, hosted a group of graduate students from Côte d’Ivoire, Germany and Kenya to discuss the Convention’s work on combating drought and desertification and the role of science in supporting good land stewardship. Two dozen students who visited UN Bonn are a part of the programme launched by the German Center for Development Research (ZEF) in 2021, together with the Universities of Cologne, Abidjan and Nairobi as part of the new DAAD Global Environment and Climate Center Initiative. The African Climate and Environment Center – Future African Savannas (AFAS), research programme focuses on nature-based solutions for climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation in African savannas. Addressing the students, UNCCD Lead Scientist Dr. Barron Joseph Orr stressed the urgency of bringing degraded lands back to health at a time when humanity has already exceeded four of the nine planetary boundaries which define our “safe operating space” – climate change, biodiversity loss, land use change and geochemical cycles, according to the recently published 2nd edition of UNCCD Global Land Outlook. Integrated land use planning that helps anticipate potential land degradation, navigate trade-offs and deliver on multiple Sustainable Development Goals is at the core of the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) concept. Developed by the UNCCD Science-Policy Interface (SPI), it provides a strong scientific foundation that supports UNCCD Parties’ work in land restoration. UNCCD Knowledge Management Officer Mr. Jeroen van Dalen explained the structure of the SPI that brings together scientists from various regions, policy makers, practitioners and civil society leaders to research a specific topic such as LDN and provide informed policy recommendations for the country Parties of the convention. Some of the visiting students who come from farming communities in Africa have witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of drought and land degradation on the rangelands and their inhabitants. Many questions from the students have been focused on UNCCD support for land restoration initiatives that benefit local communities. The students also wanted to know how youth can be engaged in UNCCD’s work. The UNCCD Communications Chief Ms. Xenya Scanlon highlighted the Convention’s work with Land Heroes and other young activists, as well as youth-led civil society organizations, inviting the students to get involved in the UNCCD Youth Caucus.
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.
The Global Youth Caucus on Desertification and Land is inviting new membership applications. The UNCCD Youth Caucus is a formal mechanism for youth engagement, set up under the Convention to facilitate the active involvement of children and young people in the UNCCD activities and processes that address desertification, land degradation, drought, sustainable development and climate change. Learn more about our work and help us grow – submit your application using this link.
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: email@example.com 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.
A region covering a total land area of 10 million km,2 of which 84% is drylands, Southern Africa is acutely affected by land degradation driven by both natural and human-induced processes. These include soil erosion which accounts for 15% of degraded land, as well as unsustainable agricultural practices, tree harvesting for charcoal production, contamination, pollution and biodiversity loss. Multiplied by climate change and intensified periods of drought, these hazards negatively impact the health, prosperity and livelihoods of millions dependent on agriculture, as evident from the recently launched Global Land Outlook Thematic Report on Southern Africa. To address these challenges in line with the Regional Strategic Development Plan 2020-2030, all sixteen of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries have committed to accelerating land, water and energy transformation. Leveraging the land, water and energy nexus for economic and business development became the focus of the recent stakeholder engagement and capacity building workshop in Pretoria, South Africa. The workshop focused on key investment pillars for future land restoration efforts in the region: water security for all, access to renewable energy, productive and resilient ecosystems, climate-smart infrastructure, strengthened agricultural productivity and sustainable food systems. The workshop, organized by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD in collaboration with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA NEPAD), Commonwealth Secretariat, SADC secretariat and the African Union Commission, brought together representatives of the environment, land, climate change and finance sectors, as well as technical and development partners. It provided an opportunity to pinpoint key environmental, social and economic challenges that face each of the 16 SADC countries and identify the key areas of action, with the specific focus on launching technical and financial partnerships for implementation of the regional strategy for the Great Green Wall Initiative. The workshop, which marked a significant milestone under the tripartite partnership between the UNCCD, Commonwealth Secretariat and AUDA-NEPAD, also allowed country representatives to explore innovative project ideas to match each country’s challenges with the technical and financial support from key partners and institutions. Potential projects include floating solar photovoltaic farms, improvement of agricultural value chains to reduce post-harvest loss and increase job creation, as well as improvement of water harvesting technologies to enhance drought resilience. As the next step, the SADC countries will take stock of current initiatives to ensure coordination, avoid duplication, identify gaps and build on and upscale best practices and successful investments. National action and investment plans outline the ambitions of the SADC countries at national, transboundary, multi-country and regional scales.