Dialogue of dilution: The UNCCD COP 14, held in Delhi, was marred with an all-too-familiar lack of ambition and ended with little clarity on the way forward in dealing with land degradation | Photo: Ángeles Estrada, IISD/ENB

UNCCD COP 14: Diluted Delhi Declaration presented, but business leaders keen to help restore degraded land

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) 14th Conference of Parties (COP) was held this past fortnight with the big news predictably being the release of the New Delhi Declaration, which aims to address the issue of land degradation and desertification. But the document was more in the news for the way in which the final version, which had been majorly diluted from the leaked draft version.

The final version downplayed the links between climate action and degradation, and has steered clear of any specifics regarding partnerships and synergies between the different parallel conventions as well as funding agencies despite featuring in the draft. Worryingly, adaptation has also been skipped in the declaration as an important aspect of resilience against land degradation and drought. The importance of land tenures, indigenous peoples and forest ecosystems have all been removed after being included in the draft version.

Apart from the declaration, the UNCCD also discussed other topics related to land degradation. According to a report tabled at the conference, the poor were impacted the most by land degradation. The reason: One of the consequences of land degradation is migration. But not all the people under environmental stress are in a financial position to migrate, and the problem will only increase if proper measures are not undertaken. On a more positive note, business leaders at the conference called for encouraging public-private partnerships to restore degraded land.

Local authorities in Mumbai still haven’t mapped out flood-risk zones years after 2005 deluge: Supreme Court panel

Even 12 years after the 2005 deluge caused by a swollen Mithi river, which submerged a majority of Mumbai, local authorities such as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Mumbai Metropolitan Development Authority (MMRDA) had still not prepared a flood-risk zone maps – this was what a Supreme Court-appointed committee found in its report submitted to the court in March 2018. The report also pointed to the structural issues in the way the Mithi river has been widened post the deluge.

UN agency censoring itself on climate crisis after pressure from US, suggests leaked email

UN’s migration agency is censoring itself on the climate crisis and the global compact on migration largely after pressure from the US government. This was determined based on a leaked email by a US-based official of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on 28 August to colleagues around the world.

The email stated that the US state department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) told the migration agency that documents related to programme activities it funds “must not be in conflict with current [US government] political sensitivities”. The official wrote that these sensitivities include the climate crisis and sustainable development goals and the global compact for migration and stated that any documents related to the programme activities “may require prior review and approval by the donor”. According to The Guardian’s sources, the agency is now avoiding direct references to climate change in documents for projects funded by other US government entities such as USAid.

Amazon countries sign pact to protect the forest, as warring tribes unite against Bolsonaro

Seven Amazonian countries have vowed to protect the world’s largest tropical forest, which has been ravaged by recent wildfires. On the agenda is better disaster response coordination and satellite monitoring. These countries include Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Suriname and Guyana. The group has also vowed to work on reforestation, improve the monitoring of deforestation and increase the role of indigenous communities in sustainable development.

Speaking of indigenous communities, warring tribes living in the Amazon’s Xingu river basin have united against Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s administration. Representatives of 14 indigenous groups and four riverside reserves met this fortnight to discuss the forest fires, which many believe have been deliberately started. The group has decided to form a representative council to form a stronger political voice. 

Investing in climate adaption can yield trillions in economic benefits

A new report has highlighted the economic benefits of climate adaption. The report, written by the Global Commission on Adaptation, has suggested that investing $1.8 trillion between 2020 and 2030 in projects to help communities adapt to the worsening impacts of climate change could yield $7.1 trillion in economic benefits. It points to five areas where investment is urgently required — early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure and water resources, dryland agriculture and mangrove protection.

According to the commission, the return on investments in building up climate resilience can range from 2:1 to 10:1. The report warned that if steps are not taken to address the issue, more than 100 million people could be pushed below the poverty line by 2030.

Humans spending $1 million per minute on global farm subsidies: Study

The world is spending $1 million per minute on farm subsidies, which are one of the primary drivers of the climate crisis and wildlife destruction, according to a new report. The analysis found that only 1% of the $700 billion a year given to farmers is used to protect the environment. A majority of the money leads to high-emission cattle production, forest destruction and pollution from fertiliser overuse.

An alternative solution to the issue of supplying cheap food, according to the report, would be to produce healthy, sustainable food, which would cut food prices as the condition of the land improves.

Glasgow to host COP 26 to be held next year

Glasgow in the United Kingdom will host the next United Nations climate change summit, COP 26, to be held in 2020. Italy will host preparatory events as part of the agreement between both countries. The meet assumes even more significance because it will likely be held just before the next US presidential elections. 2020 is also the year governments are due to review their promises to cut carbon emissions. Turkey, which was in close contest with the UK to host the summit, withdrew its bid, leaving the joint UK-Italy proposal the only bid on the table.

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