How to increase the global economy by more than $140-trillion a year

Written by Editor



By Fiona Wakelin


In 2022 the 15th COP summit of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. 


What is desertification?

Desertification is the process of productive land being degraded into desert-like conditions and is caused by activities such as overgrazing, mining, deforestation as well as extreme weather events associated with climate change. Not that long ago – between 2015 and 2017 – the Western Cape experienced three consecutive years of below-average rainfall, leading to its worst drought in more than a century and on an ongoing basis the continent is hit by storms, erosion and desertification which has both an environmental impact (water scarcity, soil degradation, reduction of biodiversity) and socioeconomic impact (poverty, food insecurity, migration).


Who are the UNCCD?

The UNCCD is the global voice for land and “promotes practices that avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation and are the driving force behind Sustainable Development Goal 15 and Land Degradation Neutrality.”  


Exciting announcements

At COP15 a number of optimistic, exciting announcements were made – not least that the global economy could increase by more than $140-trillion a year (1.5 times the annual global GDP) if the objectives of the UNCCD are achieved. 

“The benefits of taking action against land degradation largely outweigh the costs of sustainable landscape management. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is by at least seven times. Inaction costs Sub-Saharan countries $490-billion per year, while according to the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative, action to reverse land degradation could generate benefits worth up to $1.4-trillion,” said Luc Gnacadja, former Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and former Minister of Environment of Benin, currently acting as a Co-Chair of the Adaptation Benefits Mechanism Executive Committee.


Digital sustainable land bonds

Digital sustainable land bonds – which allow carbon buyers to purchase at an earlier stage of development –  were presented at the summit by Rishabh Khanna, Chief Impact Officer at Earthbanc and a steering committee member of the Initiative of Land, Lives and Peace.

“Finance for land and ecosystem restoration makes up less than 1% of all climate finance due to a lack of universal capital market products for these activities. Part of the reason is that monitoring, reporting and verification of sustainable land management has been labour-intensive, sometimes inaccurate and uses fragmented measurement and accounting methodologies.”


Adaptation Benefits Mechanism

The Adaptation Benefits Mechanism, piloted by the African Development Bank between 2019 and 2023, certifies and monetises the environmental, social, and economic benefits of adaptation actions for sustainable and resilient landscapes. 

“Unlike for mitigation, where cost-efficiency is the driving factor for investments, revenues from monetising the adaptation benefits are likely to be directed towards actions in vulnerable communities that are needed most, because they deliver compelling stories,” explained Gareth Philips, Climate and Environment Finance Manager at the African Development Bank.



Adaptation vs mitigation

What is the difference between adaptation and mitigation? Adaptation means communities adapt to accommodate the effects of climate change, while mitigation looks at the root causes and results in actions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and/or increase the carbon sinks (which absorb CO2 – such as forest plantations).


World Day to Combat Desertification

In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 17 the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought to promote the implementation of the UNCCD in those countries experiencing serious water challenges, particularly in Africa. 


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