UNCCD: World governments agree on how to stop land degradation by 2030

A breakthrough agreement reached on 23 October at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification means that the amount of healthy and productive land may stay stable starting in 2030. The parties also agreed on the indicators they will use not only to measure progress, but to also strengthen measures to make the land resilient to climate change and to halt the biodiversity loss that follows the destruction of ecosystems.

With the adoption of the land degradation neutrality target, “all countries will now formulate voluntary targets to achieve LDN according to their specific national circumstances and development priorities…. The indicators will provide the basis for the monitoring and evaluation approach to assess implementation. The same indicators could guide the synergy Parties have always called for among the three Rio Conventions – desertification, climate change and biodiversity,” said Ms Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the Desertification Convention.

Like the queen in a chess game, she said, “land will fill a place as the Queen of both international development and climate change actions. Unlike other pieces on the board, the Queen provides cover and supports our ambitions on many fronts; food, energy, water, climate, biodiversity, jobs, migration and security.”

“For a very long time, we have left the land – our Queen – vulnerable…. But you have made some strategic moves at this COP. There was no check-mate here. But by adopting Land Degradation Neutrality as an organizing principle, you have given us a clear game-plan and vision and direction for the future. For the next 15 years,” Ms Barbut said.

The agreement follows the adoption of the Global Goals for Sustainable Development in New York last month. The Conference in Ankara was responding to a key target for 2030, which is to combat desertification, and restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land-degradation neutral world.

The Parties meeting in Ankara agreed on the scientific definition of what it means to become land degradation neutral. She said after Parties have set their targets, they “will recover the land they use for purposes such as road and city construction and lose through degradation.”

Ms. Barbut said the decision puts the Desertification Convention on par with the Climate Change and Biodiversity Conventions, both of which have their own targets.

They also agreed on the set of land-based indicators that they will use to measure progress, which they are also recommending for adoption as the primary measures of land degradation neutrality globally. Ms. Barbut said there is “work to be done to ensure these indicators are workable and appropriate.”

Ms. Barbut stated that the Ankara Initiative valued at US$5million from Turkey and an estimated US$3 million to be sourced from the Global Environment Facility will provide the initial support, including for target setting.

An estimated US$2billion will be needed every year to support the actual restoration activities. This could be mobilized through the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund that will be operation by end of 2016, and with diverse sources of financing, including from the private sector, Ms. Barbut added.
Mr. Lütfü Akça, Under Secretary-General, Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs, underlined the endorsement of the land degradation neutrality target in the Ankara Ministerial Declaration, signaling the global nature of the target. He said the declarations by Parliamentarians, the private sector and the civil society organizations would enhance action, for instance, on early warning systems for drought, land rights and investment.

He said Turkey, as COP12 President, will present the Conference outcomes to the Paris 2015 Climate Conference taking place in December. He said the Ankara Initiative will be negotiated bilaterally with the Convention and will mainly support activities related to implementing the target on land degradation neutrality.

Underlining the significance of the COP12 achievements, Ms. Barbut said the reports from the Climate Change process show that “we are more at a 3 degrees Celsius than 2 degrees. If we want to stay within 2 degrees, we must massively invest in sequestration; and we could, in 15 years, halve the emissions gap” by making soil carbon sequestration part of the Paris deal.

The Conference, which was the twelfth session of the Parties took place in Ankara, Turkey, from 12-23 October, and concluded on minutes to midnight on Friday night, 23 October. More than 6,000 delegates attended the session, including more than 75 high ranking delegates who attended the high level session, which was officially opened by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

UNCCD Conferences of the Parties take place every two years.

About the UNCCD

Desertification, along with climate change and the loss of biodiversity, were identified as the greatest challenges to sustainable development during the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment, development and the promotion of healthy soils. The Convention’s 195 Parties work to alleviate poverty in the drylands, maintain and restore the land’s productivity, and mitigate the effects of drought.

Source: Press release from UNCCD rom 23.10.2015