ARAB NEWS: Saudi Arabia to host UN conference on land, drought

Country: Saudi Arabia
ARAB NEWS: Saudi Arabia to host UN conference on land, drought
09 February 2024

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification signed an agreement to host the 16th session of the Convention’s Conference of the Parties, COP16, in Riyadh from Dec. 2-13, 2024.

The Riyadh COP16 will be the largest-ever meeting of UNCCD’s 197 Parties, the first to be held in the Middle East region and the largest multilateral conference ever hosted by Saudi Arabia.

The Riyadh COP16 will focus on mobilizing governments, businesses and communities worldwide to accelerate action on land restoration and drought resilience as a cornerstone of food, water and energy security.

At the signing ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture and COP16 President Abdulrahman Alfadley said: “The hosting of the conference (COP 16) in Saudi Arabia reflects the commitment of the leadership to environmental protection at the national, regional and international levels. Additionally, Saudi Arabia launched several groundbreaking environmental projects, such as the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative.”

UNCCD Executive Secretary Ibrahim Thiaw said: “Today, we are losing fertile lands at an alarming rate, jeopardizing global stability, prosperity and sustainability. The Riyadh COP16 must mark a turning point in the way we treat our most precious resource — land — and collectively tackle the global drought emergency.”

According to UNCCD data, up to 40 percent of the world’s land is degraded, affecting half of humanity and with dire consequences for our climate, biodiversity and livelihoods. If current trends continue, restoring 1.5 billion hectares of land by 2030 will be necessary to achieve a land-degradation-neutral world.

Droughts are hitting more often and harder all over the world — up by 29 percent since 2000 — driven by climate change but also the way we manage land. One-quarter of the world’s population is already affected by droughts, with every three out of four people around the world projected to face water scarcity by 2050.

The two-week event will feature a high-level segment, as well as associated events including the Gender Caucus and the Business for Land Forum.

The event will showcase efforts underway in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East region and beyond toward a green transition based on sustainable land stewardship.

This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the UNCCD, one of the three major environmental treaties known as the Rio Conventions, alongside climate change and biodiversity.

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