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World Day to Combat Desertification in 2019

Themed “Let’s Grow the Future Together”

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Convention and the World Day to Combat Desertification in 2019 (#2019WDCD), the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) celebrates the 25 years of progress made by countries on sustainable land management. At the same time, the UNCCD looks at the broad picture of the next 25 years where we will achieve land degradation neutrality.

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What do we envisage in a world where land degradation neutrality provides a solid basis for poverty reduction, food, water security as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation?

The anniversary campaign runs under the slogan "Let's grow the future together" supported by the global observance of WDCD and the 25th anniversary of the Convention on 17 June 2019 in Ankara, hosted by the government of Turkey.

Key Issues

•    Land & Drought — "By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and 2/3 of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions."
A complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts that to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster.

•    Land & Human Security — "By 2045 some 135 million people may be displaced as a result of desertification."
Achieving land degradation neutrality -by rehabilitating already degraded land, scaling up sustainable land management and accelerating restoration initiatives- is a pathway to greater resilience and security for all.

•    Land & Climate — "Restoring the soils of degraded ecosystems has the potential to store up to 3 billion tons of carbon annually."

The land use sector represents almost 25% of total global emissions. Its rehabilitation and sustainable management is critical to combating climate change.

The past 25 years

Since its adoption in 1994, UNCCD has contributed to the advancement of sustainable land management. Today, its 197 Parties implement the Convention under coordinated and results-oriented actions with clear targets to recover and restore degraded land. The end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.

There are clear evidences of recovery and restoration of degraded landscapes through sustainable land management (SLM) practices over these years. For example, over five million hectares of degraded land in the Sahel region have been restored through a practice known as ‘farmer-managed natural regeneration’, producing additional half a million tons of grain each year. Re-introduction of Agroforestry increased trees on farms worldwide, most notably in Brazil, Indonesia, China, and India.

Still, much more needs to be done - and sooner rather than later. The current pressures on land are enormous and expected to continue growing. Nearly 170 countries continue to be affected by desertification, land degradation or drought. The recurrent and growing threats of forest fires, heatwaves, mass migrations, flash floods, sea-level rise and food and water insecurity are more evident.

The next 25 years

The importance and urgency of addressing these challenges are more widely recognized than it was two decades ago as shown in the adoption of achieving land degradation neutrality as one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

2030 will be a significant milestone for achieving land degradation neutrality as one of the Sustainable Development Goals. But it is a stepping stone towards a true land-based sustainable future. By achieving land degradation neutrality, we would have more land available for further sustainable development. What becomes more important, then, will be to generate and sustain fundamental and sustainable positive change by keeping the productive land productive.

As an international agreement on good land stewardship, the Convention must move forward to achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030 and dive into the world beyond 2030 where land degradation neutrality ensures an enabling environment for people, communities and countries to create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food, clean water and energy. Towards this ambition, the Parties to the Convention are taking concrete steps. These steps include tackling of the root causes of instability in Africa (3S Initiative); developing comprehensive national plans for drought management; and restoring Africa’s degraded landscapes at massive scale (Great Green Wall Initiative).

Key messages

•    As the world has become more and more fragile against the effect of a changing climate, the Convention must grow, and be recognized as the authority and leader on achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and leveraging LDN as a stepping stone towards true land-based sustainable development beyond 2030.

•    The 197 Parties to the Convention renews their commitment to good land stewardship that helps people, communities and countries create wealth, grow economies and secure enough food, clean water and energy by ensuring land users an enabling environment for sustainable land management.

•    Sustainable land management is everyone’s business. Together, we can restore the productivity of over 2 billion hectares of degraded land and improve the livelihoods of more than 1.3 billion people around the world.

Kubuqi sets good example of China’s desertification control

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Workers plant trees at a photovoltaic power station built at the Kubuqi Desert in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Kubuqi, the seventh largest desert in China, is a good example of China’s success in alleviating desertification. [Photo/Xinhua]

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Workers plant trees at a photovoltaic power station built at the Kubuqi Desert in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Kubuqi, the seventh largest desert in China, is a good example of China’s success in alleviating desertification. [Photo/Xinhua]

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Workers plant trees at a photovoltaic power station built at the Kubuqi Desert in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Kubuqi, the seventh largest desert in China, is a good example of China’s success in alleviating desertification. [Photo/Xinhua]

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Aerial photo taken on March 13, 2018 shows a photovoltaic power station built at the Kubuqi Desert in North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Kubuqi, the seventh largest desert in China, is a good example of China’s success in alleviating desertification. [Photo/Xinhua]

UN expert lauds China's desertification solutions

China has found workable solutions to desertification, as shown by successful projects like Saihanba National Forest Park, which is important for China and the rest of the world, according the UN's top environmental protection expert.

Since 1962, when workers started planting trees, Saihanba National Forest Park, 150 kilometers from Beijing in Hebei province, has seen the forest coverage in the area soar from 12 percent to 80 percent, according to data from 2016.

Saihanba, the largest man-made forest in the world, forms a natural barrier against sandstorms that protects the public health of millions of people living in the capital and its neighboring regions.

"The transformation of Saihanba is the result of more than 55 years of hard work by several generations of experts. ... That is a triumph of patience and determination," Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme said in an exclusive interview.

He has personally witnessed the successful outcome of similar work like Saihanba recently in the Kubuqi Desert in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The total area of greenery in the desert, the seventh-largest in China, has expanded by more than 6,000 square kilometers in the past three decades, according to data from the regional government.

"It's a case of getting the science right, and being able to think big and take that vision forward with determined leadership," Solheim said, adding that the patience to think long-term is also necessary, which has been proven in the 55-year efforts in Saihanba Forest Farm.

"Desertification is not just a major problem for China. Nations like Iran and Iraq face similar problems, as do countries in the Sahel region of Africa, and even parts of the United States. In areas of the Middle East, desertification is also a huge public health issue. We know that this kind of environmental degradation also drives instability and conflict."

Thus it's inspiring to see "the clear, workable examples of how these kinds of problems can be tackled", he said. "This is not just important for China, but for the rest of the world, too."

Sources:

https://www.unccd.int/world-day-combat-desertification-2019-concept-note

https://www.un.org/en/events/desertificationday/

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2017-09/12/content_31904896.htm

http://english.gov.cn/news/photos/2019/03/15/content_281476563384560.htm

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