You are hereAgreement to stop land degradation by 2030… and the crucial help of forests in achieving this objective

Agreement to stop land degradation by 2030… and the crucial help of forests in achieving this objective

The international fight against desertification and land degradation moved a step forward this October.  An agreement was reached to maintain at a stable level from 2030 the amount of healthy and productive land in the world.  This was one of the outcomes of the twelfth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD COP 12), held in Ankara, Turkey (12-23 October 2015).


This agreement is totally coherent with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (launched in September 2015 in New York).  In particular, it is aligned with the specific target on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) (SDG 15.3), which is now also the UNCCD's target: “By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world”.


In order to achieve the LDN target, all the countries party to the UNCCD are invited to formulate voluntary targets at a national level, taking into account their specific circumstances and development priorities.  Achievement of the LDN target could result in the rehabilitation of 12 million hectares of degraded land each year at a global level.


The UNCCD COP 12 agreement also establishes a logical link with the upcoming Paris Climate Change Conference (30 November – 11 December 2015), and the UNFCCC’s objective of limiting the average global temperature increase to 2˚C from pre-industrial levels.  Adoption of more sustainable land management practices and policies, as well as ecosystem restoration and rehabilitation, would enhance carbon stocks and reduce carbon emissions.  Forests play a major role in this, since they prevent land degradation and desertification by stabilizing soils, reducing erosion, and keeping water and nutrient cycling in soils.  Deforestation, on the other hand, results in desertification and land degradation, and contributes to climate change by reducing carbon sequestration.  According the UNCCD, more than 2 billion hectares of land worldwide are suitable for rehabilitation through forest and landscape restoration.


The Parties in Ankara also agreed on the set of indicators (trends in land cover, land productivity, and carbon stocks above and below ground) to be used in order to measure progress on the agreed LDN target.  These indicators will also be relevant for reporting across the UNCCD, UNFCCC and CBD, and therefore are expected to link more firmly the three Conventions.


It is also worth noting that one of these UNCCD indicators (Trends in land productivity) served as a basis for the proposal for one of the new indicators (Ind. 2.5. Forest land degradation) included in the updated pan-European set of indicators for sustainable forest management (SFM), which was recently endorsed by the ministers of the FOREST EUROPE signatories at the 7th FOREST EUROPE Ministerial Conference.  The inclusion of this in the updated SFM indicators aimed at recognising the close relationship between forests and land degradation (mainly the role of forests in recovering degraded land and how sustainable forestry activities can make a difference in this).  At the same time it aligned the pan-European set with the work of the UNCCD to measure trends in land degradation in the world.


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