Soil regeneration can be big business

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Investing in the fight against the degradation and desertification of the planet’s soils is one of the most effective actions that can be undertaken at a time when its deterioration coincides with multiple planetary crises, the UN Deputy Secretary General said on Monday.

During the opening speech of the fifteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP15) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Amina Mohammed recalled that both half of world GDP and grain supply depend on combating land degradation.

“Yet instead of investing in solutions, the world is accelerating land degradation and worsening desertification,” he warned.

To this delicate situation, Mohammed added another even more relevant figure.

The Deputy Secretary-General indicated that, according to the recently published Global Land Outlook report by the Convention, current approaches to land management they are threatening half of the world’s economic output estimated at 44 trillion dollars.

“At the same time, poverty and hunger are on the rise for the first time in a generation; the World Bank warns that food and energy prices will continue to rise for three years; and the Secretary-General has mobilized the international community to galvanize urgent action through the Global Food, Energy and Finance Crisis Response Group,” he said.

After asserting that we cannot continue down this path, he recalled that the Sustainable Development Goals still represent “our best hope for building a sustainable and inclusive future”, and that land recovery is linked to this set of 17 global goals, all countries and all people.

Regenerating land is good business

According to the projections presented by Mohammedthe recovery of soils could generate up to 140 billion dollars a yearthe equivalent of one and a half times the GDP of last year.

“And that can be done with less than a quarter of the amount spent each year on fossil fuels and farm subsidies. In fact, for every dollar invested in restoring the land, up to $30 in benefits can be realized,” he calculated.

Some figures that, as he warned, lead us to a crossroads: “we can reap the benefits of the restoration of the land now, or continue on the disastrous path that has led us to a triple planetary crisis related to climate, biodiversity and contamination”.

As an example, he explained that we can react to future pandemics by spending two trillion dollars a year, or just 1% of that sum to stop them at their source.

Despite this dilemma, he maintained that the good news is the progress made in land restoration, which encompasses the G-20 commitment “to halve degraded land by 2040 and restore one billion hectares by 2030, an area of size of the United States or China.

However, he clarified that it is still necessary to be more ambitious and pointed to two great catalysts: the African land restoration project known as the Great Green Wall, which “has already restored millions of hectares and created thousands of jobs”, and gender equality.

Gender equality is an advance against soil degradation

In this last section, he denounced that inequality continues to increase and pointed out that women spend 200 million hours a day collecting water and even more caring for the earthbut who still do not have the same access to land rights and financing.

“The elimination of these barriers and the empowerment of women and girls as owners and partners of the land is a decisive factor for the recovery of the land, for the 2030 Agenda and for the 2063 Agenda of the African Union”, he pointed out.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is held from May 9 to 20 in the city of Abidjan, in Côte d’Ivoire. The event brings together government leaders, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders to promote advances in future sustainable land management.

The theme chosen for this COP15 is: ‘Land. Life. Legacy: From Scarcity to Prosperity’. You can follow the Conference at this link.

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