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Ahead of Climate Action Summit, ministers clamour coalition to scale up global land restoration

On the road to the Climate Action Summit in New York in September, the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India and President of COP14, Mr. Prakash Javedkar, and the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, hosted a high-level luncheon on land and climate on Monday, September 9, 2019, on the margins of the UNCCD Fourteenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP14). The event was co-facilitated by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

UNCCD high-level luncheon
L-R: Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD); Ms. Amina J. Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General; and Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India and President of COP14, Mr. Prakash Javedkar, at the high-level luncheon on land and climate during COP14

During the meeting, participants underscored that land resources are the basis for human health, livelihoods, food security, and for our economic, cultural and spiritual well-being. Some 25 per cent of the world’s land is degraded, affecting the lives of 3.2 billion people, particularly smallholder farmers, those in rural communities and the world’s poorest populations, they argued.

Women are on the daily frontline struggle to salvage the large area of agricultural land already affected by land degradation. And the stewardship of indigenous peoples is essential to safeguard the world’s remaining biodiversity. All vulnerable groups who depend on sustainable land management and who can contribute to land restoration need our support, the delegates stated.

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They welcomed the IPCC’s special report on Climate Change and Land which constitutes the first comprehensive study of the entire land-climate system. As such, they agreed that it is a fundamental contribution to global negotiations on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable land management, and calls for synergies between the Rio Conventions. The report provides a sound basis for ambitious actions contributing to climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation as well as to combat land degradation and enhance food security.

The gathering stressed that restoring degraded lands and achieving land degradation neutrality (SDG 15.3) provided an integrated solution to increase ecosystems and populations resilience as well as to enhance the capacity of our land for carbon sequestration. Land use must therefore be an integral part of the climate solution, rather than a cause of GHG emissions.  This, they said, would strengthen biodiversity conservation, increase livelihoods and human security.

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“It will also curb emissions from degrading lands and help close the projected emissions gap between Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and the Paris Agreement objectives. Most importantly, land degradation neutrality will improve the living conditions of affected populations and the health and productivity of their ecosystems.”

Participants agreed that land restoration would deliver co-benefits to many Sustainable Development Goals and that the three Rio Conventions can actively work together to support restoration activities as an important contribution to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

They also agreed that the critical role of land restoration for climate mitigation and adaptation must be visible. They believe that the Climate Action Summit will send a strong political signal for more public funding and private investments to enable land restoration for impact at the scale needed, through gender-responsive, transformative projects and programmes that seek to generate and sustain fundamental and sustainable positive change.

Delegates indicated that time had come to turn the vicious circle between land and climate into a virtuous one by reinforcing the positive elements of the relationship, helping to manage emissions on the one hand and adapting to climate impacts on the other.

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They therefore called for more concerted policy action, more investments, and more capacity to scale up land restoration to achieve land degradation neutrality. They expect the Nature-Based Solutions Coalition to propose concrete and ambitious actions at the Summit.

Participants expressed support for the global effort to achieve land degradation neutrality through ambitious initiatives such as the Bonn Challenge target of having at least 350 million hectares of degraded land under active restoration by 2030 and the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and Sahel Initiative. They also welcomed the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 (UN General Assembly resolution 73/284) as a unique opportunity to galvanise political will, increased investments, and action on the ground for land restoration at massive scale across the world.

Participants included Armenia, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Fiji, Finland, France, Gambia, Germany, Haiti, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Republic of Korea, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, South Africa, Tajikistan, United Kingdom, European Union as well as CBD, GCF, GEF, FAO, IPBES, IPCC, UNCCD, UNDP, UNEP, UNFCCC, UNRC India and the World Bank.

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