UNCCD COP 13 Opens in China
Photo by IISD/ENB | Francis Dejon
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The 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has opened in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China.

The Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC) is holding its 16th session to discuss proposed guidelines for quantitative and qualitative reporting for adoption by the COP.

Also convening its 13th session, the Committee on Science and Technology (CST) will discuss the scientific conceptual framework for LDN that was developed by the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI).

6 September 2017: The 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has opened in Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China. The session is expected to approve a new strategic framework aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as the multi-year workplan for 2018-2022 and costed work programme for the 2018-2019 biennium. It will also officially launch the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) fund, which aims to attract significant private sector funding for land restoration projects, and present the first edition of the UNCCD’s Global Land Outlook, which identifies the key trends, challenges and opportunities for the management and restoration of land resources in the context of sustainable development.

UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said the new framework gives “a new sense of purpose and common cause.”

Also convening its 13th session, the Committee on Science and Technology (CST), one of the two subsidiary bodies of the Convention, will discuss the scientific conceptual framework for LDN that was developed by the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI). The conceptual framework aims to provide a scientifically-sound basis for understanding LDN, and contribute to the development of practical guidance for implementing and monitoring programmes to achieve the LDN target. It uses three UNCCD-land-based global indicators of land cover, land productivity and carbon stocks.

Among its recommendations, the SPI calls on the CST and the COP to, inter alia: adopt the scientific conceptual framework and encourage its further elaboration and practical verification; apply a participatory process to ensure that all stakeholders, especially land users, are involved in designing, implementing and monitoring interventions to achieve LDN; reinforce responsible governance: protect human rights, including tenure rights; develop a review mechanism; and ensure accountability and transparency.

The second UNCCD subsidiary body, the Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC), holding its 16th session, will discuss the proposed guidelines for quantitative and qualitative reporting for adoption by the COP. In line with the proposed future strategic framework for the Convention, future reporting is expected to focus on progress indicators assessed with statistical data, and narrative reports on implementation progress, primarily involving the collection of case studies and lessons learned. As the custodian agency of SDG indicator 15.3.1 (Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area), the UNCCD will also seek the COP’s approval to use national reporting on the three progress indicators – trends in land cover, trends in land productivity and trends in carbon stocks above and below the ground – for reporting on the SDG indicator. By enhancing synergies between the future UNCCD monitoring and reporting framework and the SDGs, the UNCCD also aims to ease the reporting burden for countries and other reporting entities.

Currently 110 countries are implementing the voluntary LDN target-setting programmes with support from the UNCCD’s Global Mechanism and nearly 20 bilateral and multilateral partners. Country support includes providing practical tools and guidance for the establishment of voluntary LDN targets; assisting countries with data to establish national LDN baselines; and identifying transformative LDN projects. Transformative projects are described as initiatives that enable countries to increase the coherence and scale of land restoration programmes and projects through: using LDN as a lens to foster the coherence of national policies, actions and commitments; moving from pilots to scale; and creating blended finance packages to finance the transition towards LDN by creatively combining public and private, national and international climate and development resources.

A COP 13 training session co-organized by the UNCCD and Green Climate Fund (GCF) will provide information to UNCCD national focal points and land-use practitioners on how to access Green Climate Fund financing for land-based projects. The training will specifically address the key messages and methodologies that can enable stakeholders to increase the volume of financing to achieve climate change mitigation and adaptation while combating desertification and land degradation. The UNCCD recently joined the group of international observer organizations to the GCF, which is expected to explore opportunities for members to finance preparation and implementation of large-scale and transformative climate action projects in the land sector. The UNCCD reports that achieving observer status enables UNCCD representatives to attend GCF board meetings and to better contribute to the orientation of climate finance to achieve LDN.

Similar to previous COP sessions, a two-day high-level segment will take place to raise political momentum for the negotiations and boost the engagement of stakeholders in the Convention’s implementation. Three ministerial round tables will address the topics: ‘Land degradation: A challenge to development, prosperity and peace’; ‘Drought and sand and dust storms: Early warning and beyond’; and ‘Land degradation neutrality: From targets to action – what will it take’? Three interactive dialogues will also take place with representatives of civil society, local government and the private sector, addressing, respectively: gender and land rights; the role of local governments in addressing the challenges of land degradation; and private sector investments to help achieve land degradation neutrality.

COP 13 participants will also be invited to join a field trip to showcase land rehabilitation efforts in Inner Mongolia. UNCCDP COP 13 will run from 6-16 September. [UNCCD COP 13 Webpage] [COP 13 Host Country Webpage] [Global Land Outlook][UNCCD Press Release on Attaining GCF Observer Status] [ENB COP 13 Coverage][UNCCD Executive Secretary Statement][SDG Knowledge Hub story about LDN Fund]


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