Press Release, Desertification and Drought Day, 17 June 2020

By External Source
Jun 17 2020 (IPS-Partners)

The cost and consequences of the land transformation
grossly underestimated says the UN

The cost and consequences of land use change are underestimated
as demonstrated by COVID-19. Investing in the over 400 million
hectares of land earmarked for restoration will help to build back
better and safeguard our relationship with nature.

“The rapid and negative economic
and social impacts of COVID-19 worldwide show the consequences of
land use change are underestimated. The failure to slow and reverse
the process of land use change may come at a very high cost in the
future. It is in our interest, therefore, to ensure that as part of
building back better, we take steps to help nature recover so that
it works with and for, not against us,” says Ibrahim
Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to
Combat Desertification
.

“In a short space of time, COVID-19, a zoonotic disease, led
to the worst economic crisis since the Second World War. A majority
of the countries went into lockdown for two-months, on average. The
global economy is heading for a recession and social relations are
changing. The urgency both at the policy and practical levels to
slow down and reverse land use change cannot be overstated,”
Thiaw said.

“On the policy level, building back better means ensuring the
policies to pre-empt or minimize land use change exist. On the
practical level, it means the incentives to inspire consumers and
producers to avoid land use change are provided. Both call for a
world where people accept the right to draw from nature comes with
the responsibility to take care of it – a social contract for
nature,” he added.

Zoonosis is the crossing of viruses from animals to humans. The
international community has battled five zoonotic diseases in two
decades. Medical science shows that three out of every four
emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic. Natural scientists claim
land use change creates the ground for it, as the interaction and
physical distance between animals and humans gets closer.

According to the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and
Ecosystem Services (IPBES), over 70 percent of all the natural,
ice-free land is affected by human use. Moreover, this could rise
to 90 percent by 2050, if global land use follows the same
path.

Agricultural land for food, animal feed and fibre is behind this
vast change, according to IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and
Land. For the most part, the by-products from agriculture are
consumed by urban dwellers and foreign inhabitants, not the local
communities producing the goods, according to the World Atlas on
Desertification.

Out to 2050, over 500 million hectares of new agricultural land
will be needed to meet the global food demand, according to the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“It’s reassuring, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, that
we can build back better. In the last five years, countries agreed
on the actions to halt land use change. Since then, close to 100
countries have earmarked areas for repair and restoration by 2030,
in the largest ever global restoration initiative. A preliminary
analysis shows over 400 million hectares earmarked under this
initiative, which is about 80% of the agricultural land required to
meet global food demand out to 2050,” he added.

The restoration of these areas as part of building back better
to avoid future zoonosis would bring other crucial benefits,
particularly mitigating climate change.

The IPCC Report shows that land-based actions are an essential
part of the tools to be used to draw down carbon from the
atmosphere into nature to stay below 2 degrees Celsius. It warns,
however, that these land-based actions are only effective now, not
later, because the land’s ability to fix carbon will decline,
especially where the land is unhealthy.

Every year, the ecosystem services lost due to land degradation
are worth US$10.6 trillion per year, according to a study by the

Economics of Land Degradation
. By contrast, switching to
sustainable land management practices could deliver up to US$1.4
trillion in increased crop production.

“The time for action is ripe because the social and economic
outcomes of restoring degrading land are consistent with what
citizens are demanding from their governments – jobs, action on
climate change, peace and security,” Thiaw adds.

“The involvement of consumers is also essential,” says Park
Chong-ho, Minister of Korea Forest Service.

“The Republic of Korea has provided US$570 million dollars for
15 years since 1973 to reverse land use change because after the
Korean War we learned that halting and reversing land change is
only possible when consumers make different choices that are backed
by financial investments that aid the desired change,” he
explains.

“Deforestation rates fell sharply as poverty declined, and the
government launched national forest rehabilitation projects to
restore devastated forests and to support income generation of
consumers. If consumers reward the land users who are increasing
land productivity and governments provide additional support to
them, it is possible to slow and reverse land degradation,” he
added.

Republic of Korea is hosting the virtual global observance this
year. Desertification and Drought day is held every year on 17
June, starting in 1995, with a view to raise awareness about the
two issues.

NOTE TO EDITORS:

Detailed information about the observance is available on the
UNCCD Website:
https://www.unccd.int/actions17-june-desertification-and-drought-day/2020-desertification-and-drought-day

For interviews contact: kjimenez@unccd.int or press@unccd.int

Free to use materials for the media can be downloaded from the
UNCCD site and cited appropriately to avoid copyright infringement.
Available products include the programme for the day, messages from
celebrities and world leaders, including Secretary General António
Guterres and UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw, high
resolution photographs, 6 short
video films
and human interest stories.

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Press Release, Desertification and Drought Day, 17 June 2020

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Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Press Release, Desertification and Drought Day, 17 June
2020