Water holds the key to restore degraded land

 The international community has been urged to set up a global water action agenda as the central theme to achieve land degradation neutrality.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India announced at the ministerial segment of the 14th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification that opened in New Delhi that his country will restore an additional 5 million hectares of degraded land by 2030, raising the land to be restored in India to 26 million hectares.

The restoration is part of India’s commitment to achieving land degradation neutrality, a flagship initiative under the UNCCD. To date, 122 of the 170 countries affected by land degradation have committed to achieving land degradation neutrality.

Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD Executive Secretary, highlighted the present and inter-generational impacts of land degradation globally and underlined the plight of the children being born “whose future is not in the hands of the parents alone, but of humanity at large.”

He drew attention to recent scientific assessments that revealed the harm caused by land degradation, stressed importance of the current COP in laying “the groundwork for change” for the five United Nations Summits to be held in New York soon, and said “combining our land with three little concepts of equality, partnerships and scale could take us a very long way towards our common goals.”

Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations said, “We no longer have the luxury of spending the next 10 years meeting preparing the targets. We have two weeks to move our common agenda in the right direction to bend the curve on a planet of fewer than 2 degrees, towards action and impact.”

She highlighted that 800m people are still going hungry and that crop yields are dropping, and demand for food is set to increase by 50 per cent in the coming decades. Restoring 150 million hectares of farmland could feed 200 million more people every year. At the same time, it would provide greater resilience and over 30 billion a year in increased income for small stakeholders and sink an additional 2 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year.

It is in these critical times where our individual and collective responsibilities will be needed, even more than they ever have been.  It is a massive effort but together we can lift and achieve the aspirations of the climate agenda,” she added.

“The [Climate Action] Summit “is not the first and last stop. It is the first step towards concrete actions and we are asking commitments from our member states. I will say considerable engagement with the financial sector is really important since there is a barrier if we don’t have resources. So, we are saying public funds, must move. We are not correct in saying the Green Climate Fund doesn’t have money on the table, they do, and the states do make contributions that are a good signal towards the climate action summit in the next two weeks. It is a continuous engagement, that is what it is about,” she added.

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