Issuing a stark warning in the first-ever message from a UN Secretary-General to a meeting of the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged parties to step up ambition on their Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) targets or risk the prospect of having to restore “a staggering 1.5 billion hectares of degraded land by 2030.” Echoing statistics contained in the inaugural UNCCD Data Dashboard that synthesized country and regional reports ahead of CRIC 21, he lamented that over 100 million hectares were lost annually between 2015 and 2019, an area twice the size of Greenland.
The 21st session of the CRIC (CRIC 21) opened in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, representing the first time such a meeting has been held in Central Asia, a region suffering from land degradation, particularly in the Aral Sea region. During the opening session, Aziz Abdukhakimov, Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change, Uzbekistan, outlined his country’s efforts to restore degraded land: plant more than 400 million trees and shrubs; increase protected areas from 4 to 14% of its land area; and spearhead regional efforts to restore the Aral Sea region and mitigate worsening incidences of sand and dust storms.
In his opening address, Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw stressed that while previous civilizations have bequeathed us with the resources on which we depend, environmental disasters such as the degradation of the Aral Sea demonstrates how much can be destroyed in just one generation.
Interventions by representatives of the Regional Implementation Annexes focused on, among others: the increased incidence of drought and the importance of the work of the Intergovernmental Working Group (IWG) on Drought; the need for improved reporting processes; and the recently launched Data Dashboard.
Following opening statements, the CRIC turned to a preliminary analysis of Strategic Objective 1 on improving the condition of affected ecosystems, combat desertification/land degradation, promoting sustainable land management, and contributing to LDN. A brief discussion also took place on Implementation of voluntary LDN targets and related implementation efforts, based on a report by the Global Mechanism.
Side events are being held during a CRIC for the first time ever, and delegates planted trees at a new Green Park in Samarkand, making a small contribution to Uzbekistan’s efforts to restore its degraded land.