From Sept. 6-16, Estonia, as the current holder of the presidency of the Council of the EU, is representing the union at the 13th session of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Conference of the Parties in Ordos, China.
Minister of the Environment Siim Kiisler (IRL) is participating and will make an opening statement on behalf of the EU in the high-level segment of the conference taking place on Monday and Tuesday, according to a presidency press release.
Nearly two billion people are directly or indirectly affected by the consequences of desertification and land degradation, including many EU countries.
"The world loses around 12 million hectares of arable land each year due to desertification, land degradation and drought," Kiisler said, giving an example of the extent of the transboundary issue of land degradation. "This creates insecurity and the forced displacement of people as well as food shortages in affected areas. 20 million tons of grain could be grown on an area of that size."
The primary goal of the 13th Session of the UNCCD Conference of the Parties (COP13) is to adopt a new strategy for the 2018-2030 period which will contribute to achieving the objectives of the Convention and the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The conference will also shine a light on the status and rights of the people most severely affected by land degradation and drought.
The parties will also discuss innovative funding solutions in order to increase private investment in land rehabilitation, and sustainable land management projects.
Estonian land, soil affected by other factors
Similarly to other countries, Estonia has implemented various measures to improve the condition of its land, for example by restoring forests and wetlands as well as rehabilitating quarries. These activities are closely linked to the objectives of the UNCCD, which aims to preserve and increase land resources and land-based ecosystem services.
"Estonia has done its fair share to improve the condition of its land, which may not amount to much on the global scale, but is still a significant contribution to combating land degradation," said the Estonian minister. He also noted that gathering the opinions of all EU member states and representing them is an important task that carries a lot of responsibility, "Especially considering that much is expected of Europe in the framework of this COP."
The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is an international agreement that aims to halt desertification and land degradation through the promotion of sustainable land management. The Convention has 196 parties — 195 countries and the EU, this time it is represented by Estonia. Thus far, more than 160 countries have confirmed that they are affected by land degradation.
Estonia joined the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in 2011. Although Estonia is not on the list of countries affected by desertification, its land and soil have their own share of problems. In many areas, soil fertility has significantly declined due to logging, the draining of wetlands and unsustainable land management practices. Furthermore, the extraction of mineral resources has also had an adverse impact on the natural environment, resulting in serious land degradation in many areas.
Editor: Aili Vahtla