UNCCD welcomes the US plan to conserve land and waters


america the beautiful quote

12/05/2021 Messages

Statement by the UNCCD Executive Secretary Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw

The Biden-Harris Administration last week outlined its vision of how the United States can conserve and restore 30 per cent of its land and waters by 2030. The report titled, Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful, identifies six priority areas of action. It calls for the establishment of a tool that shows better the voluntary contributions farmers, ranchers, tribal leaders, forest and private landowners make in this process. 

I welcome this remarkable step taken by the Biden-Harris Administration within the first six months of being in office.  

The vision outlined by the Administration is commendable in many ways. 

The announcement came two weeks ahead of the high-level dialogue on desertification, land degradation and drought convened on 20 May 2021 by the President of the United Nations General Assembly. The purpose is to mobilize political will to restore degrading lands as part of the post-COVID19 pandemic recovery process.  

Leading by example will inspire action among leaders who have yet to make commitments to join the global effort to restore as much land as possible by 2030. The benefits are immense. We can slow climate change, halt biodiversity loss, increase food production and create green jobs without clearing new forests or put the Earth at greater risk. Halting and reversing current trends could generate up to USD 1.4 trillion per year of economic benefits. 

More than two billion hectares of land is degraded globally. So far, countries have earmarked about one billion hectares for restoration by 2030. The voluntary national target to restore conserve and restore 30 percent of US land and waters will motivate other countries and raise the ambition to restore all two billion hectares.  

The G-20 Initiative set up last December will contribute to support for this restoration. But a lot more is needed. The private sector, foundations, governments not yet engaged and individuals, all need to join in. 

So far, 127 countries have committed to set up voluntary national targets to avoid, reduce and restore degrading land. Of these, 104 have already set targets to restore land in an area that is now well over 400 million hectares –a size larger than India.  

The Biden-Harris Vision was developed through a consultative process. The administration consulted tribal leaders, governors, members of congress and their staff, scientists, elected county and state officials, environmental advocacy organizations, representatives of fishing, farming, hunting, trade and industry.  

Consultation is tedious but getting everyone’s buy-in is the key to success. The Administration has signaled that it is focused on long-term change and believes that acting together in this area is consistent with America’s values and interests. 

We have run out of time. It is my hope that the vision outlined by the Biden-Harris Administration will be realized quickly and successfully. I am encouraged by the actions countries have taken since the pandemic started in 2020 to prioritize good land stewardship in charting the path to a sustainable future. I urge all UN member states to raise the ambition for 2030 to the restoration of all two billion hectares of land. 

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.