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Fight against climate change: 200 nations pledge to focus on land-based solutions

NEW DELHI: Ministers and representatives from nearly 200 countries have pledged to focus on land-based solutions that will contribute to preventing catastrophic climate change and the conservation of biodiversity. The pledge, the New Delhi Declaration, hammered out over the two-day long high level segment of the 14th general assembly of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, has a broad focus on investing in land and unlocking opportunities. The New Delhi Declaration will be adopted by the meeting in its closing assembly on Friday.

The New Delhi Declaration is political statement that gives a broad sense of the direction in which countries will work together to address the issues of land degradation and desertification. The general assembly of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification is convened biennially. India is hosting this round of the meeting and will guide the implementation of the Convention and decisions taken for the next two years.

Rather the big promises, the New Delhi Declaration identifies the approaches and areas of work such as droughts particularly on preparedness plans and risk mitigation, land degradation neutrality, creating green jobs and establishing sustainable value chains for products sourced from the land. The declaration however fails to deliver any real momentum on improved financial flows though it does broaden the sources of finance. In particular, the inclusion of financial flows from the private sector.

The declaration “invites” development partners, international financial mechanisms, the private sector and other stakeholders to “boost investments and technical support for the implementation of the Convention”. Around two billion hectares of productive land have already degraded worldwide. Every year around 12 million hectares fall to desertification, according to the UNCCD. The cost to combat these has been estimated at $450 billion annually. Addressing the media following the opening of the high-level segment, UNCCD executive secretary Ibrahim Thiaw, who lamented the paucity of funds to address the key issues relating to land. “We cannot only rely on public funds. Private funds also need to come. Land degradation and desertification is a problem that is everyone’s problem and therefore private investment will go a long way,” said the UNCCD chief.

In that sense, the declaration serves as a political flagging off on key issues that will form the core of the deliverables that India will work on together with other countries and stakeholders during its tenure as chair of the assembly.

It takes note of the latest scientific assessments including the recent special report on land and climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the global assessment on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the report on land degradation and restoration by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The declaration reiterates the synergies in addressing land degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate change.

Countries have pledged to encourage the development of community-driven transformative projects and programmes, as well as focus on efforts that address issues of land degradation and drought and energy access.

There is some concern that the declaration does not capture the level of ambition that seemed to otherwise inform the meeting. Among the issues on which further discussion and consensus is required is that of land tenure. This was flagged as new and emerging issue for the New Delhi meeting. Countries agreed to “reaffirm” the relevance of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests for better access, control and stewardship over land and equitable tenure security, in accordance with relevant national legislation, for the implementation of the Convention and the promotion of sustainable land management.

Another important focus of the declaration is that of creating synergies to address issues of biodiversity loss and conservation, and tackling climate change. Going beyond synergies, there is a political recognition of the need to encourage local governments to adopt integrated land use management and enhanced land governance to rehabilitate the natural resource base that are crucial to sustain life as we know it. This is particularly important given the push for urbanisation across the world, especially in developing countries. Leaders have agreed to encourage governments at all levels, particularly local governments, to focus ways to reduce rates of land consumption and soil sealing, and biodiversity and ecosystem loss.

The New Delhi Declaration highlights interventions such as the Peace Forest Initiative that was launched at the current round of meetings. This initiative focuses on the potential contribution to increasing cooperation on land degradation neutrality, including land restoration and reforestation in transborder areas in participating countries. The Great Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel was another effort that was highlighted.

On Tuesday, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is chairing the current round of the UNCCD meet, presented the draft New Delhi Declaration to the delegates in a closed meeting.

Javadekar had described the declaration as “not only be ambitious but very reality-based declaration which will be accountable for the actions by various nations”.

Source: Economic Times