UN convention with focus on land degradation begins today
Representatives of 196 countries will discuss key issues like land tenures, gender equity in land rights, dust and sand storms, and drought-led migration at the 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) India would host from Monday in Greater Noida.
COP 14 is critical because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its special report on climate change and land released last month, said the land surface temperature has increased by 1.53 degree C since the pre-industrial period.
The report called for addressing land degradation to help mitigate climate change because of large reserves of carbon in the soil. It is likely to be discussed at COP 14 and decisions may be taken on certain aspects of land management.
Out of the 196 countries, 122 countries including India have agreed to become land degradation neutral (LDN) by 2030, as specified in the goal 15.3 of the sustainable development goals.
At the previous China hosted COP, the parties agreed to follow a “scientific conceptual framework for land degradation neutrality” and have a uniform approach in achieving the target and monitoring whether countries are on track. This may be strengthened further during this COP. But only LDN may not do much.
“Countries will have to recover the land lost in degradation. There are other critical issues to be discussed on which there may or may not be decisions at the end of the conference. Giving land rights to women, who nurture land in most countries, dealing with dust and sand storms, curtailing drought-led migration and conflict are among critical issues to be discussed,” said environment and forests ministry joint secretary Jigmet Takpa.
UNCCD executive secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said close to a quarter of the land is now almost unusable. “By the middle of the century, we have to produce twice as much grain as we do today to keep up with global population growth,’’ he said in a statement on Sunday. “If we fail to act now, competition over resources like land may lead to hostilities in the future as nations find it increasingly difficult to meet the demand for vital and declining resources.”
India has promised to convert nearly 50 lakh hectare degraded land into “fertile land” in the next 10 years. In his presentation on the COP, environment, forest, and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar said India will focus on dry lands, rain-fed areas, and rehabilitate ecologically fragile areas like the Himalayas, Aravalis, Western Ghats and the Deccan plateau.
Takpa said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will spell out how India will achieve its target at the COP. “It will be a multi-ministry effort. India will take a leadership position because India has gender disintegrated data, land rights policies, affordable remote sensing technology needed to address land degradation,” added Takpa.
N H Ravindranath, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Science, called land degradation one of India’s biggest challenges. “It also leads to a water crisis. IPCC’s land report has underlined that land degradation is linked to climate change. India is hosting its third UN conference. It has already hosted climate and biodiversity COPs. We are expecting statements from India on what it will do to address land degradation and how it will help other developing countries particularly those in Africa with early meteorological warning systems and remote sensing,” said Ravindranath.
He added the desertification convention may not be as high profile as the UN climate convention but the land has synergistic benefits for biodiversity and creating carbon sinks.
A New Delhi Declaration is expected to be adopted to specify how countries will achieve their voluntary targets at the end of the 11-day conference on September 13.