Climate Change

Land the size of Central Asia lost since 2015 due to degradation 

At this rate, restoring 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030 will be necessary to achieve a land-degradation-neutral world

By Shagun
Published: Thursday 14 September 2023
Photo: iStock

Healthy and productive land the size of Central Asia has been degraded since 2015, affecting food and water security globally and directly impacting the lives of 1.3 billion people, according to latest estimates released by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD). 

At least 100 million hectares of healthy and productive land were degraded every year between 2015 and 2019, the UN body pointed out. This added up to 420 million hectares (4.2 million square kilometres), slightly over the combined area of five Central Asian nations: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. 

“If current trends continue, restoring 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030 will be necessary to achieve a land-degradation-neutral world. Alternatively, halting any new land degradation and accelerating existing commitments to restore one billion hectares can surpass the neutrality target,” said the statement. 

At its thirteenth session in 2017, the Conference of the Parties to the UNCCD adopted the UNCCD 2018−2030 Strategic Framework and encouraged Parties to apply it in their national policies, programmes, plans and processes relating to desertification / land degradation and drought. 

Later this year, the Parties will review the assessment of implementation of the framework along the Strategic Objectives at the 21st session of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 21), to be held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan from November 13-17, 2023. 

CRIC 21, one of UNCCD’s official meetings, will review progress in implementing strategic objectives on the following: 

  • Promoting sustainable land management
  • Building drought resilience
  • Supporting women’s leadership in sustainable agriculture
  • Addressing forced migration due to land degradation and climate change

It will also reveal the latest global trends in land degradation and drought, and review how countries are progressing with land restoration. 

For the first time since its inception, an official meeting of UNCCD will be convened in Central Asia. 

Land degradation contributes to extreme climatic changes and events and is simultaneously made worse by them. The meeting is significant at a time when the world is witnessing an uptick in extreme weather events, with historic heatwaves and wildfires across Europe and North America, several failed rainy seasons in the Horn of Africa and devastating floods, monsoons and cyclones in Asia. 

The framework contains five strategic objectives that are meant to guide the actions of all UNCCD stakeholders and partners in the period 2018-2030:

  • To improve the condition of affected ecosystems, combat desertification/land degradation, promote sustainable land management and contribute to land degradation neutrality
  • To improve the living conditions of affected populations
  • To mitigate, adapt to and manage the effects of drought in order to enhance resilience of vulnerable populations and ecosystems
  • To generate global environmental benefits through effective implementation of the UNCCD
  • To mobilise substantial and additional financial and nonfinancial resources to support the implementation of the Convention by building effective partnerships at global and national level

“We must urgently stop further land degradation and restore at least one billion hectares to meet global land targets by 2030,” said Ibrahim Thiaw, UNCCD executive-secretary. 

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