A third of the world’s land is degraded. By the end of the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that ended on Saturday, September 16, 2017 in Ordos, China, 113 countries agreed to specify concrete targets, with clear indicators, to reverse degradation and rehabilitate more land.
Countries also agreed at COP13 on a new global roadmap to address land degradation.
The new UNCCD 2018-2030 Strategic Framework is said to be the most comprehensive global commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) in order to restore the productivity of vast swathes of degraded land, improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people, and to reduce the impacts of drought on vulnerable populations.
“Some battles took place, but you took bold measures for our Convention. We have a new strategic framework and a new reporting cycle. We have a Drought Initiative. We have taken fundamental decisions on gender, capacity-building, migration and sand and dust storms,” said Ms Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary.
The Conference also witnessed the birth of the first global private sector fund dedicated to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Known as the Land Degradation Neutrality Fund (LDN Fund), it will be a source of transformative capital bringing together public and private investors to fund projects to restore degraded lands, which come with environment, economic and social benefits.
With an initial target size of $300 million fund capital, the LDN Fund is co-promoted by Mirova, an affiliate of Natixis Global Asset Management that is dedicated to socially responsible investment, and the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD. A separately-operated Technical Assistance Facility (TAF) will advise the Fund on the development of promising sustainable land use activities in order to build a strong portfolio of projects.
The Global Land Outlook, a new landmark publication unveiled at the Conference, spotlighted the urgency for swift action. It reported that 20 percent of the world’s land has become degraded in just the last two decades.
“This is the most comprehensive study of its type, mapping the interlinked impacts of land on a range of thematic areas including urbanisation, climate change, erosion and forest loss,” Ms. Barbut said of the publication at its launch.
To reaffirm the progress made at the summit, more than 80 Ministers from around the world issued the Ordos Declaration urging countries to step up efforts on all fronts to tackle desertification – one of the planet’s most pressing global challenges.
“The Ordos Declaration reaffirms the contribution of ecological services to food security, private sector, civil society and youth…. It also recognises the importance of addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and addressing food security,” said Zhang Jianlong, Minister of State Forestry Administration, China, when he closed the Conference.
He said the Convention will pay attention to regional hotspots and intensify cooperation, and underlined the Belt and Road Cooperation Mechanism that will support capacity building along the Silk Road in the region.
The Conference also took action to address three new and emerging issues linked to increasing land degradation – drought, sand and dust storms and migration.
Sand and dust storms threaten the health of millions of people across the globe, and is a major concern in China where the Conference took place.
“Equally, drought mitigation,” Ms Barbut asserted, “would for the first time be an area of focus under the New Strategy.”
“National drought policies with effective early warning systems would be crucial in promoting vulnerability assessment and risk mitigation measures, particularly in light of the devastating droughts witnessed in Africa this year that have left more than 20 million people on the verge of starvation,” she added.
The Conference took place from September 6 to 16 in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.