HOHHOT — A United Nations conference ended on Sept 15 in the Chinese desert city of Ordos with more than 100 countries committed to setting national timelines to stop desertification by 2030.
The ten-day 13th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) concluded with four main outcomes and a declaration, said conference chairman Zhang Jianlong.
Desertification is one of the most pressing issues facing mankind. Up to 2 billion hectares of land are degraded worldwide. UNCCD figures show averagely 12 million hectares are lost every year and 169 countries are affected by land degradation, desertification and drought.
Zhang, also head of China’s State Forestry Administration, said one major outcome was the commitment of 112 countries to set voluntary targets to achieve “land degradation neutrality” by 2030.
Zhang said a fund was also launched to assist countries reaching their targets.
UNCCD Deputy Executive Pradeep Monga said the land degradation neutrality fund was a milestone achievement under UNCCD.
“This is a very strong commitment by the private sector to finance land degradation neutrality initiatives around the world,” Monga said.
The size of the fund and other details are not immediately disclosed.
China is ahead of its peers. The area of desertified land in the country is dropping by an annual average of more than 2,400 square km, making China the first country in the world to achieve desert shrinkage, according to Chinese forestry officials.
Zhang said the conference also adopted a new UNCCD strategy framework for the 2018-2030 period.
The Ordos Declaration also applauded China’s efforts to combat desertification, the set-up of a Belt and Road cooperation framework on fighting desertification, and the successful model of “green desert economy” demonstrated in the shrinking of the Kubuqi desert.
Over the past 30 years, one third of the 18,600-square-kilometer Kubuqi desert has been covered by shrubs and trees. More than 100,000 locals can no longer be considered “poor” as they profit from planting drought-resistant licorice.
A UNCCD report says the core of the success in Kubuqi is its sustainable business model and the establishment of a system that incorporates policy instruments, investment from the private sector and active participation of locals.
UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said the Chinese model of green economy, involving the relationship between the local population and the ecosystems around, can be replicated elsewhere in the world.