Desertification, Land Degradation and Climate Change Go Hand in Hand

The planet is losing 12 million hectares of prime land yearly
due to degradation. This photo taken in 2013 records efforts to
green portions of the Kubuqi Desert, the seventh largest in China.
Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Jan 28 2019 (IPS)

The link between desertification, land degradation and climate
change is among several issues occupying the attention of the 197
Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification
(UNCCD) for the next three days.

Guyana, a member-country of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM),
is hosting the
17th Session of the Committee for the Review of Implementation of
the UNCCD (CRIC 17)
from Jan. 28 to 30. It’s the first
meeting of a subsidiary body of UNCCD to be held in the
English-speaking Caribbean.

Troy Torrington, director of multilateral and global affairs
within the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the meeting is
an important one for the Caribbean as it will highlight the role of
land in combatting the climate challenge.

“It is critical that we place greater emphasis on land if we
are going to be successful in meeting the global climate
challenge,” Torrington told IPS.

“In fact, land has several important contributions to the
climate. One of the foremost of those is in terms of the
sequestering of carbon. The sequestration of carbon enriches the
land . . . and with good land use planning, management and
practices, you can in fact significantly advance the solutions to
the global climate challenge.”

Troy Torrington, director of multilateral and global affairs
within the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says in order to be
successful in meeting the global climate challenge, greater
emphasis must be placed on land. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

In 2009, Guyana made a deal with Norway, where the Nordic
country agreed to pay up to 250 million dollars over the course of
five years if Guyana maintained its low deforestation rate. It was
the first time a developed country, conscious of its own
carbon-dioxide emissions, had paid a developing country to keep its
trees in the ground.

Under the initiative, developed by the United Nations and called
REDD+ (for Reducing Emissions
from Deforestation and Forest Degradation)
, Guyana was able
continue logging as long as biodiversity is protected.

Melchiade Bukuru, chief at the UNCCD New York liaison office
agrees with Torrington on the issue of sequestration, noting that
carbon, which once belonged to and serves as a fertiliser in the
soil, is a polluter in the air.

He said that in order to achieve
Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN)
, some 500 million acres of
degraded land must be reclaimed and made fertile once more.

“Unless we harness the capacity of our soil to sequester
carbon, to bring back the carbon where it belongs, we will not be
able to achieve even the UNFCCC
goal of 2° C,” Bukuru said. UNFCCC or the U.N. Framework
Convention on Climate Change is a global intergovernmental treaty
formed to address climate change. The Conference of Parties (COP),
the highest-decision making body of the Convention, meets annually
to discuss progress and adopt new decision in combating climate
change. 

At COP21 the
Paris Agreement
was formed, which committed to hold the
increase in global average temperature to well below 2° C, to
pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5° C, and to achieve net
zero emissions in the second half of this century.

Bukuru said land degradation also remains a major challenge for
countries, adding that each year, the planet is losing 12 million
hectares of prime land due to degradation.

Meteorologist with the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for
Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) Dr. Andrea Sealy (right), says
severe Sahara dust episodes significantly affect air quality
especially in Eastern Caribbean countries. Sealy shakes hands with
Melchiade Bukuru, chief at the UNCCD New York liaison office
(left). Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Meanwhile, the issue of sand and dust storms will also come up
for discussion. Dr. Andrea Sealy, a meteorologist with the
Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology
(CIMH), said severe Sahara dust episodes significantly affect air
quality, especially in Eastern Caribbean countries.

“If you have a lot of dust, it also compromises solar panels.
Once the solar panels are covered with dust, the amount of
radiation they absorb is decreased. So that’s another issue we
would need to look at because in the region we are very dependent
on solar energy and we will be becoming more dependent as well,”
Sealy told IPS.

“There are also issues with the marine ecosystems with dust
affecting them. It’s possible the dust could be affecting
terrestrial ecosystems. I know for sure studies have been done on
the Amazon where it shows to have a positive effect on the soil. In
terms of the marine ecosystems though, there are negative effects
because you get the algae blooms.”

With several countries experiencing periods of extreme drought
in recent years, Guyana’s lands and surveys commissioner Trevor
Benn said land and water are inextricably linked.

He pointed to neighbouring Barbados. Benn explained that the
island nation is running out of water, but he added that some
people fail to see the link between land use and water
scarcity.

“I believe if Barbados begins to look more seriously at how
they utilise the land, what type of cultivation [they do], what
type of infrastructure they put where, you will see that the issues
relating to water may subside,” Benn said.

“The importance of land cannot be overstated. It is the
pinnacle of everything we do.”

According to the UNCCD, CRIC 17 will review the first global
assessment of land degradation based on Earth observation data
reported by governments. The assessment, which was conducted by
reporting countries using a harmonised approach, shows the trends
in land degradation between 2000 to 2015 based on data provided by
145 of the 197 countries that are party to the Convention.

The assessment is expected to provide a baseline for assessing
progress in the reduction or reversal of land degradation globally,
going forward. It will also contribute to country efforts to
achieve LDN, which is Sustainable Development Goal target 15.3.

CRIC 17 will also conduct interactive dialogues on three related
emerging issues – the gender action plan as a tool to improve the
living conditions of the people affected by land degradation; new
and innovative sources to finance initiatives to combat land
degradation; and the progress towards achieving the Sustainable
Development Goal target on land degradation neutrality, for which
the Convention plays a lead role.

At the end of the session, CRIC 17 will propose recommendations
that will be considered by its governing body, COP.

CRIC meets once in between the sessions of the COP to review
country reports submitted in compliance with the COP decisions.

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Desertification, Land Degradation and Climate Change Go Hand in
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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Desertification, Land Degradation and Climate Change Go Hand in Hand