Prof.Dr.Veysel Eroğlu, Minister of Forestry and Water Affairs of the Republic of Turkey and the President of the UNCCD COP12, made a statement in view of the ongoing Climate Change Conference in Paris (UNFCCC COP21). Noting that land is the largest carbon store on Earth after the oceans, he urged the UNFCCC COP21 negotiators that actions in the land use sector be more seriously debated in their negotiation process.
The full statement of the COP12 President can be read below:
Land in the new climate change regime
As the President of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), I would like to state the following:
As you are aware, the poorest people with the fewest options are being hardest hit by the impacts of climate change. It is an often forgotten truth that nearly 80% of the poorest people in the world predominantly live on the land in rural areas. They rely on small-scale rain-fed agriculture. For people who depend for their whole lives - and indeed their entire livelihood - on the health and productivity of their land, less rainfall and more land degradation because of climate change is a terrifying scenario.
Already, every year, up to 12 million hectares of productive land (about 4 times the size of Belgium) are lost to land degradation. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is warning us to expect a 2 percent drop in agricultural output per decade, as a result of climate change. And, if the current unsustainable practices continue, we will need an additional 4-6 million hectares a year for increased food production annually. Competition and eventually conflict over what will become an increasingly scarce and vital natural resource will accelerate. Terrestrial ecosystems and vulnerable people are being pushed to breaking point. With the current rates of land degradation, how can we meet the expected needs for water, energy and food? How will an increasing population endure ever more extreme and difficult climatic conditions?
While land degradation accelerates climate change and vice versa; if widely adopted, land restoration and rehabilitation along with sustainable land management is an immediate and effective solution for both adaptation and mitigation of climate change.
Parties to the UNCCD expressed their strong support for scaling up land based adaptation measures for climate change. Adaptation needs to be ‘down to earth’. Adapting land use to changing climatic conditions and making wise use of land ecosystem services are indispensable in building resilient communities. Healthy land is the basic requirement for populations to cope with climatic irregularities and shocks. This is especially true where land is the primary – often only – tangible asset. Experience shows that sustainably managing the land and rehabilitating it, where it has been degraded, also provides valuable co-benefits in terms of food security and preserving biodiversity.
On top of this, UNCCD Parties also recognize that land-use change, agriculture and land degradation are responsible for about 25 percent of carbon emissions globally(1). This situation exists despite the fact that healthy soils can store large amounts of carbon.
In fact, land is the largest carbon store on Earth, after the oceans. Soils could take up much more carbon if managed sustainably. Two billion hectares of degraded land worldwide have the potential for rehabilitation and restoration. We would therefore urge that actions in the land use sector be more seriously debated in your negotiation process. For example, the inclusion of the land sector among the sectors covered by Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) has significantly expanded country Parties’ options for mitigation.
UNCCD Parties propose that we use common indicators – also with CBD – and commit to rehabilitating an additional 12 million hectares of degraded land annually. This would bring us to the point of achieving, at least at the net global scale, land degradation neutrality. And by rehabilitating 12 million hectares annually over a period of 10 years we could sequester up to 3.3 gigatonnes of CO2 per year in 2030. This equals around two thirds of the total emission reductions proposed in the INDCs.
Harnessing the mitigation potential of land and achieving land degradation neutrality could be the missing piece of the puzzle - closing the emissions gap and keeping global warming below 2°C on average.
It would be a smart and cost-effective investment. With the cost of rehabilitation and restoration low, at an average of much less than 500 USD per hectare and very minimal annual maintenance costs; the abatement cost would be less than 20 USD per ton of carbon.
It is a fantastic opportunity to mitigate climate change and at the same time secure the vital ecosystems services that the land provides.
Thank you very much.