Information
  • Lead-organizer: European Commission
  • 19:00 - 20:30
  • Date: 20 Jun 2012
  • Room: P3-B

Documents
Goals for Healthy Soils and the Role of the Global Soil Partnership

Organizing partners

European Commission, Environment Directorate-General
Food and Agriculture Organization, Land and Water Division
Secretariat to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Introduction

Land and soils deliver key ecosystem services and are pillars of the green economy. They support human well-being and provide sustenance for all including the poor, and are a source of decent new jobs and economic progress. Their degradation is a serious global issue because of its adverse impact on food security, climate change, and ecosystem resilience.



Current land and soil degradation rates are unsustainable, thus business-as-usual is not an option. The side event will discuss what kind of goals and targets on land and soil should be decided upon in Rio+20 and what role FAO's Global Soil Partnership and other relevant initiatives could play in supporting their implementation. Senior speakers from diverse regions of the world will indicate which direction the planet should take to ensure that land and soil develop their full potential, thus contributing to the Rio+20 outcome in an informal setting.

Detailed programme

Land and soils are fundamental not only for providing key ecosystem services, but also as pillars of the green economy. They support human well-being and provide sustenance for all including the poor, and are a source of decent new jobs and economic progress. Their degradation is a key global issue because of its adverse impact on agricultural productivity, its effect on food security, climate change, and ecosystem resilience.

Land is a finite and in human terms non-renewable resource. According to FAO, due to growing population figures and land degradation, only 0.20 ha of arable land will be available per person in 2020, less than half the amount in 1960 (0.43 ha). By 2050, only 0.10 ha will be available, thus each piece of land will count double as to production and to soil losses.

According to UNEP, 24% of the global land area has already suffered declines in health and productivity over the past quarter century as a result of unsustainable land-use. Certain types of conventional and intensive agriculture are triggering soil erosion rates some 100 times greater than the rates at which nature can form soil in the first place. Since the 19th century, an estimated 60% of the carbon stored in soils and vegetation has been lost as a result of land use changes, such as clearing land for agriculture and cities; if existing patterns of land management continue, increasing amounts of this carbon could be released to the atmosphere, aggravating global warming linked to the burning of fossil fuels. Moreover, the draining of carbon-rich peatlands is currently producing more than two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually ? equal to around 6% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Today the degradation of peatlands is happening at a rate 20 times greater than the rate at which the peat, and thus the carbon, is accumulated.

According to the medium projections of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy (USA), urban land cover in more-developed countries will grow by 63% between 2000 and 2030, and by 113% between 2000 and 2050.The situation is likely to be even more critical in less-developed countries, where most urban population growth will take place and where urban expansion is likely to continue unabated in the absence of effective urban containment policies. Urban land cover there will grow by 170% between 2000 and 2030, and by 326% between 2000 and 2050.

The above indicates that current land and soil degradation rates are unsustainable, thus business-as-usual is not an option. Rio+20 should indicate a global path and invite countries to implement appropriate actions to achieve relevant goals and targets for sustainable land management and maintaining healthy soils.

The side event will underline that poverty and hunger, food insecurity and vulnerability to climatic shocks are likely to remain the major global challenges for sustainable development in the next decades. Better land and soil use, particularly in agriculture and forestry, and limiting urban land take to the strict necessary should be the cornerstones of an improved approach. Goals and targets (for example arriving at zero net rate of land and soil degradation) have been proposed by the European Union, the Secretariat to the UNCCD and others. FAO, with the support of European Commission, have launched the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) to improve global governance of the world?s soil resources. Regional partnerships will implement the actions of the GSP, while addressing local needs with local experts and fostering south-south cooperation. Technical guidance to the Global Soil Partnership will be provided by an Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils. The side event will discuss what kind of goal and targets should be decided upon in Rio+20 and what role the GSP and other relevant initiatives could play in supporting their implementation, thus contributing to the Rio+20 outcome in an informal setting.

Proposed structure of the side event:

- Chair: Klaus Töpfer (IASS, Germany)

- Speakers (to be confirmed): Dilma Rousseff (President of Brazil) or Izabelle Teixeira (Environment Minister of Brazil) or Jorge Mendes Ribeiro Filho (Agriculture Minister of Brazil); Janez Potoènik (European Commission); José Graziano Da Silva (FAO); Ida Auken (Environment Minister of Denmark); representative of South Africa; Dave White (Chief, Natural Resource Conservation Service, USDA); Luc Gnacadja (UNCCD); representative of either China or India.

- After a brief introduction, the Chair will moderate a roundtable discussion among the speakers. He will also draw summary conclusions.
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