Some African leaders present at the COP 15 summit in Abidjan Some African leaders present at the COP 15 summit in Abidjan 

Ivory Coast: UN COP 15 summit against deforestation holds in Abidjan

Heads of state, government leaders, and representatives of the private sector and civil society gather in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, from 9 – 20 May, for the COP 15 summit on deforestation, which aims to promote action against the degradation of land and the harmful consequences for biodiversity and populations.

By Benedict Mayaki, SJ

The 15th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) started in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, on Monday.

The 9 – 20 May event, themed “Land. Life. Legacy: From scarcity to prosperity,” aims to be a call to action to ensure that land, the bedrock of the planet, continues to benefit both present and future generations.

The first two days of the event will be a high-level segment, which includes a Heads of States Summit, round tables and interactive dialogue sessions among ministers and other high-ranking officials.

Land in focus

Over the next 10 days, the COP 15 event will bring together leaders from governments, civil society, the private sector and key stakeholders to reflect and drive progress for the future of the sustainable management of land.

Top on the Conference agenda are “drought, land restoration, and related enablers such as land rights, gender equality, and youth empowerment,” said the UNCCD in a statement. The summit will also explore links between land and other key sustainability issues, including the restoration of one billion hectares of degraded land between now and 2030, and future-proofing people against the impacts of disaster risks linked to climate change.

According to the UN, up to 40 percent of all ice-free land is degraded, with dire consequences for climate, biodiversity, and livelihoods. More so, by 2050, business as usual will result in the degradation of a further 16 million square kilometers, with 69 gigatonnes of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, a recently-released UNCCD “Global Land Outlook" report shows that more than half of the global GDP (roughly $44 trillion USD) is moderately or highly reliant on natural capital, which includes land, water, and biodiversity.

The UNCCD notes that COP 15 is “a key moment in the fight against desertification, land degradation, and drought.” The Conference will thus “build on the findings of the second edition of the Global Land Outlook and offer a concrete response to the interconnected challenges of land degradation, climate change, and biodiversity loss as we step into the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.”

“We must ensure that funds are available for countries that need them, and that those funds are invested in areas that will have a decisive impact and create a more inclusive, sustainable future for all,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed. 

A summit of hope

Several African heads of state were present at the opening ceremony in Abidjan, on Monday. Many of them highlighted the importance of giving priority to the problems of drought and desertification.

Ivorian president, Alassane Ouattara, stressed that COP 15 must be a summit “of hope, of the collective mobilization of States and development partners, in favour of land and forest restoration initiatives of our countries.” He called on the participants to use “all the resources of our Conventions to meet the ever-increasing food needs and cope with the ever-increasing water stress of an ever-growing world population.”

Abdulla Shahid, the President of the UN General Assembly stressed the importance of productive land to global food security, healthy ecosystems, and the maintenance of stable livelihoods. He added that “it is a precondition for the success of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; for progress on the Rio Conventions on biodiversity and climate change; and for tackling pollution on land and at sea.”

For his part, the Executive Secretary of the UNCCD, Ibrahim Thiaw insisted that “now is the time for action” as “there is no future for our children or the planet if we continue with ‘business as usual’ when it comes to managing our land.”

Thiaw underlined that COP 15 is our moment in history to “put people and the planet on a new course; on the path to life, to Covid-19 recovery and to prosperity”  and he urged that the decisions taken “must be transformational, not incremental, to achieve land restoration and drought resilience the world longs for.”


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10 May 2022, 12:17