The Rio Conventions Pavilion hosted several side events during the Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 27) in Egypt. The events focused on land restoration, implementation of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) in Africa, the role the Rio Conventions in helping countries achieve their development priorities, youth initiatives, and the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI).

Participants at an event on land restoration as a nature-based solution for resilience heard about coordinated efforts of organizations in implementing land restoration projects, which have resulted in the transformation of food systems, gender responsiveness for economic development, and enhanced Rio Convention synergies alignment with national action plans. The 9 November event also addressed, among others, key messages of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s (UNCCD) flagship publication, the Global Land Outlook report, and the importance of gender inclusivity in the development of land restoration solutions. The event was organized in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

A 12 November event focused on challenges faced in the implementation of NDCs in Africa within the context of the current global food and energy crises, and policies needed to accelerate implementation. The event highlighted that, among others:

  • the Russia-Ukraine war has impacted progress on NDC implementation in Africa, where approximately 700 million lack access to electricity and 600 million lack clean energy sources for cooking;
  • NDCs can open access to finance and technology transfer; 
  • land restoration offers multiple co-benefits and can be less expensive and more effective than other interventions; and
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the event organizer, is working with the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) on policy implementation toolkits in the food sector. 

A high-level synergies event on 15 November explored the role of the Rio Conventions in helping countries achieve their development priorities for the benefit of present and future generations, as well as action areas that must be advanced by 2030. The Executive Secretaries of the UNCCD and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) spoke, as did the GEF CEO and Chairperson, the Spanish Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, and the UNCCD COP 15 and CBD COP 14 Presidents. Speakers focused on the need for, inter alia: governments to take coordinated approaches in integrating the objectives of the three Conventions into national development plans; and the three Rio Conventions’ Executive Secretaries to take a synergetic approach in working together to address biodiversity loss, land degradation, and climate change. 

Building Resilience and Transforming the African Landscape Through Scaling up the Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) was the focus of a 17 November event. The initiative, launched in 2007, aims to restore Africa’s degraded landscapes, transform livelihoods, and build the adaptive capacity of African countries. The event highlighted the commitment of African countries to galvanize climate action by mobilizing political support and partnerships, in order to upscale lessons learned from GGWI implementation in Africa. Speakers discussed: the GGWI Accelerator, which is designed to support African institutions to accelerate their implementation of the Initiative; the adoption of the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter; and the need for stronger CSO involvement and an integrated approach to GGWI implementation. 

Youth initiatives towards climate change, biodiversity conservation, and desertification were the focus of another 17 November event, organized by the GEF. GEF CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodríguez underlined the financial uncertainties many young people face, including when attending large conferences such as COP 27. He said the GEF hopes to assist with these difficulties in accessing resources and supported organizing a Youth Assembly in parallel to the next GEF Assembly. Youth activists called for: creating and drawing on a network of GEF youth ambassadors that could connect with local communities and initiatives; finance, empowerment, and spaces to “incubate” their innovative ideas; and any new GEF mechanism to recognize the diversity of youth and provide direct access to funding for youth. 

At the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) provided coverage of selected side events.