The Dictum On Desertification
Millennium Post Kolkata|September 04, 2019
With land being at the core of fighting climate change which is certain to hurt all sections eventually, UNCCD COP14 presents an opportunity.
Sunita Narain

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD) is Rio’s Stepchild, we said. Why? Because it was a neglected and frankly unwanted agreement, signed by the world at the Rio Conference in 1992.

It was agreed because African and other developing countries wanted it. It was a sop — give them the crumbs of an agreement, which the rich world did not understand or believe in. In Rio, climate change was the top agenda.

Next came the issue of biodiversity conservation — a resource largely surviving in the countries of the South, which need to be conserved and access secured. Then there was the issue of forests — a convention was proposed and staunchly opposed by the developing countries who said that it would infringe on their national resources. In all this acrimony, the desertification convention was born.

Today, close to 30 years later; now when the world is beginning to see the deadly impacts of climate change; now when it is still losing the war against the extinction of species and is faced with the dire prospects of catastrophic changes, this forgotten, this neglected convention, must shed its stepchild image.

It is the global agreement that will make or break our present and future. The fact is that management of our natural resources, particularly land and water — what this convention is concerned about — is a huge risk today; our own mismanagement is being exacerbated by weird weather events, which is making millions more vulnerable and more marginalized.

But there is another side as well. If we can improve our management of land and water, we can shave off the worst impacts of climate change. We can build wealth for the poorest and improve livelihoods.

And, by doing this, we mitigate greenhouse gases (GHG) — growing trees that can sequester carbon dioxide; improving soil health that captures carbon dioxide, and most importantly, changing practices of agriculture and diets is reducing emissions of GHG. So, this convention needs to be moved from the stepchild to the parent.

Why do I say this? Sample what is happening in terms of extreme rain events in vast parts of the world — developing and developed; rich and poor; urban and rural.

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