Kenya joins global community to combat land degradation through adoption of Land Degradation Neutrality target setting exercise

3 November 2016

Report from the outcome of COP12 and CRIC15

Frank Msafiri, UNCCD, Kenyans CSOs Focal Point:

Introduction and Background Information:

The fifteenth session of the Convention's subsidiary body that assists the Parties to plan for and review the reports of work submitted by Parties, known as the Committee for the Review of Implementation of the Convention (CRIC), took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 17 to 21 October 2016. The CRIC was established by decision 1/COP 5, as subsidiary body to the COP to assist it in regularly reviewing the implementation of the Convention.

Land degradation is a global phenomenon, which is leading to the reduction and loss of the biological and economic productive capacity of land. It is caused by human activities, exacerbated by natural processes and magnified by climate change and biodiversity loss. Some 25% of the global land surface is considered to be degraded; every year, 12 million hectares are added to the total area of degraded land. The economic costs of land degradation are estimated at USD 490 billion per year, corresponding to three to six per cent of the global agriculture gross domestic product. (UNCCD)
Recognizing that desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) are major global environmental and developmental concerns, The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) that was held in Rio de Jenairo, Brazil in 1992, recommended to the UN General Assembly for the establishment of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). Kenya participated fully in the UNCCD’s negotiations that began in early 1993.

As part of her commitment to address the problems of desertification under the UNCCD, the government signed the convention in October 1994 and ratified it in June 1997. The convention calls for the development of National Action Programmes (NAP) that is aimed to mainstreaming strategies geared towards the reduction and prevention of land degradation in Kenya. The country developed its NAP in 2002 which has now been realigned to address decisions made during COP 8 and 9 was for all the Parties to align their National Action Programmes to the UNCCD Ten (10) year Strategy and Framework (2008-2018).

In September 2015, the global community agreed on “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, including 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and 169 targets. Goal 15 urges countries to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss. Target 15.3 aims to “combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world” by 2030. The proposed indicator to measure the achievement of SDG target 15.3 is “Proportion of land that is degraded over total land area”. The proposed sub- indicators for SDG target 15.3 are land cover, land productivity, soil organic carbon stocks. They correspond to the progress indicators adopted by the UNCCD.

Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting (LDN)

In October 2015, the twelfth session of the Conference of Parties (COP 12) of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) held in Turkey agreed to integrate the SDGs and related targets into the implementation of the Convention and decided that “striving to achieve SDG target 15.3 is a strong vehicle for driving implementation of the UNCCD”. In order to enable the UNCCD to “make a significant contribution to achieving land degradation neutrality (LDN)”, the COP decided to invite Parties to “formulate voluntary targets to achieve LDN” and “explore options on how to integrate the voluntary LDN targets in their national action plans (NAP) as part of their overall discussion on the implementation of the SDG”. Affected country Parties were also called to establish baselines and national-level voluntary LDN targets within their NAPs” and “include voluntary national LDN targets in their national reports, as appropriate”.

In order to advance a common understanding of LDN, COP 12 also endorsed the science-based definition of LDN which was developed by the Intergovernmental Working Group on LDN as follows: “LDN is a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems”

In response to this decision, during the 15th Committee for the Review of the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC15) held in UNEP facilities in Nairobi from 18th to 20th October 2016, Kenya indicated that ‘The country appreciates the initiative by the secretariat to implement the LDN target setting project. The county is grateful to have been selected to be among the participating countries and welcomes the efforts so far extended to country to implement the exercise a reality. In particular, the country was represented in the Africa region inception workshop for the LDN target setting exercise and the hiring of a national consultant to guide the LDN target setting in the country.’ Kenya therefore calls upon the development partners to mobilize resources to assist in achieving LDN targets and help reverse the negative impacts caused by land degradation. This will include supporting the implementation of the envisaged large scale transformative projects to meet their LDN targets. The country notes that the LDN target setting will create a favorable environment to enhance synergetic implementation of the 3 RIO Convention (CBD, UNFCCC and UNCCD) as the restoration of land will enhance biodiversity conservation as well as mitigate the effects of climate change.

The same sentiment was expressed by the CSOs where representatives of CSOs called on the Parties to fully engage the community groups and NGOs/CBOs in the implementation of Land Degradation Neutrality Target Setting.