Parched: India’s land degradation targets have come under the lens as the country hosts 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) | Photo:

India to host UN meet focused on land degradation, but country still unclear on 2030 target

This week, representatives from 196 countries are meeting in Greater Noida, India, at the 14th Conference of Parties (COP 14) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to discuss key issues, including land tenure, dust and sand storms, and drought-led migration. The meeting assumes even more importance considering the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report released last month stating land surface temperature has increased by 1.53°C since the pre-industrial period and called on countries to address land degradation to help battle climate change.

Of these 196 countries, 122, including India, have agreed to become land degradation neutral (LDN) by 2030. But India still remains unclear on the LDN target. While Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar said on August 29 that India has set a target of restoring 50 lakh (5 million) hectares of land by 2030, his ministry, after the National Workshop on ‘Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Target Setting Programmme’ held on June 17, had decided on a figure of 30 million hectares. At COP 14, India is also expected to announce plans to take a massive land restoration initiative, which includes creating a ‘green path’ running from Porbandar to New Delhi.

Javadekar, meanwhile, also released Rs47,436 crore to 27 states for compensatory afforestation and other forest conservation work, which is expected to be used for regeneration of forests, raising plantations, wildlife management,. This amount is part of the total corpus of Rs54,685 crore collected under the ad hoc Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA). Experts, however, say CAMPA funds have little ecological consequences because “the money is collected out of activities which result in loss or degradation of forests.” 

Indigenous communities best at protecting forests, but still don’t get their due: Study

They are the best custodians of forests across the world, but indigenous people still don’t get their due – that was the conclusion of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) report, which was released this fortnight. The report pointed to the fact that indigenous communities are custodians of nearly 40% of protected land and manage 300 billion tonnes of carbon without notable investment, but governments are unable to do the same despite spending billions of dollars. What’s worse is that instead of being rewarded for protecting the environment they live in, these communities are often subjected to violence and forced eviction, the report said.

India to ban six single-use plastic products on Oct 2

In its most daring gesture yet in the fight to rid the planet of single-use plastic, India is set to ban plastic bags, cups and straws across the country starting October 2. With the target of banning all plastic by 2022 in mind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch the campaign that will ban six items, including plastic bags, cups, plates, small bottles, certain types of sachets and straws. The ban will cover manufacture, usage and imports of these items. Some Indian states have already banned polythene bags.

G7 summit: Climate change top of agenda, France & UK double pledges to UN green fund

There wasn’t a single dull moment at the G7 summit held in France in the last week of August. French president Emmanuel Macron clearly had climate change on his mind when meeting world leaders. While India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Macron of his country’s commitment to the Paris Climate Accord, the US was unhappy with the summit’s focus on climate change. While US president Donald Trump was all praises for Macron publicly, his aides believe the French president tried to isolate Trump by focusing discussions on climate change, which the US president has spoken out against. It didn’t help matters when Trump skipped a discussion on how to deal with the Amazon fires and find ways to help cut carbon emissions.

One of the more positive developments at the summit was of France and UK doubled their pledges to the UN’s Green Climate Fund to $3.5 billion. The fund has been hit by currency fluctuations and Trump’s refusal to hand over $2 billion committed by the US..

The Brazilian government, meanwhile, backtracked on its rejection of $20 million in foreign aid to help fight the Amazon fires, but on one condition – only it can determine how the money is spent. French president Emmanuel Macron unveiled the pledge by G7 nations at the summit this fortnight, which he said would be available immediately, with France even offering more military support in the region. While the Bolsonaro administration initially suggested it would reject the offer, accusing the foreign powers of wanting control over the Amazon. But the aid was later accepted. “This money, when it enters the country, will have the total governance of the Brazilian people,” presidential spokesman Rego Barros said. 

India set to launch international coalition to boost disaster resilient infra

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will launch an international Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) during the UN summit to be held in New York on September 23. To be set up in New Delhi, the CDRI will aim to help countries upgrade their infrastructure development capacities by bringing on board experts and stakeholders who will assess the countries based on their vulnerabilities, disaster risk and economic needs.   

China’s Belt and Road initiative could lead to 2.7°C warming: Study

While China has been increasingly taking important steps to reduce its emissions levels, the carbon footprint created by the country’s multi-million dollar Belt and Road initiative may put a spanner in the works of the Paris agreement’s target to keep global temperature increases to below 2°C. A new study says that the 126 countries that come under the initiative currently account for 28% of total global emissions. But if their current trajectory continues, the emission levels could go up to 66% by 2050, researchers, led by Ma Jun, a special advisor to China’s central bank, said.

This means global carbon levels would go up by nearly double the level required to meet the Paris target. “…it may be enough to result in a 2.7 degree path, even if the rest of the world adheres to 2 degree levels of emissions,” the report said.  

Nordic PMs, business leaders sign climate declaration

Nordic prime ministers and CEOs signed a joint declaration on climate change at the Nordic council summer summit held this fortnight. The declaration, signed by seven Nordic countries and a group of 14 companies, promotes public-private partnerships with an aim to combat climate change and achieve a more sustainable society.

Showing support for the joint vision was German chancellor Angela Merkel, who did not sign the declaration, but was at the summit and agreed to work with Nordic countries to coordinate climate policies.

Indonesia to move capital from sinking Jakarta to East Kalimantan

Indonesia announced plans to move its capital, Jakarta, to East Kalimantan, nearly 1,300km away. The reason for this is Jakarta’s pollution, over-crowdedness, pollution and the fact that it is sinking fast. The move will cost the country $32.79 billion as researchers say Jakarta could be entirely submerged by 2050, one of the main reasons for this is the extraction of groundwater to meet the city’s needs which has exacerbated the impact of rising sea levels.Is this a sign of things to come? It very well could be, as scientists warned governments across the world to prepare for a ‘managed retreat’ from coasts because of rising sea levels.

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