Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message to the seventh Kubuqi International Desert Forum, in Kubuqi Desert, China, on 27 to 28 July:
It is a pleasure to greet this important forum on combating desertification and promoting global cooperation for global desertification control. I welcome the cooperation between the People’s Republic of China, the United Nations and other partners that has made this gathering possible.
Every year, the world loses 12 million hectares of productive land, with far-reaching consequences, including falling crop yields, massive food loss, rising tensions over natural resources, forced migration and weakened resilience to climate change.
With the climate emergency deepening and global population growing, it is crucial to reverse these trends. Land restoration and rehabilitation can generate livelihoods, spur economic growth and empower women, who often bear the brunt of land degradation and water scarcity. It can also sequester significant amounts of carbon emissions.
Climate disruption is progressing even faster than the world’s top scientists have predicted and is outpacing our efforts to address it. We are in a battle for our lives. But with new technology, smart policies, strong solidarity and greater ambition, this is a battle we can win.
We have seen promising commitments, from the Great Green Wall across the African continent to ambitious restoration and reforestation efforts in Latin America and Asia. I urge the international community to support these undertakings.
The Kubuqi International Desert Forum is an opportunity to share and scale up success stories in and beyond China. I will also count on you to announce concrete commitments in time for the Climate Action Summit that I am convening on 23 September at United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Restoring and protecting our planet’s fragile layer of land is a matter of life and death. Losing these lands has brought us conflicts, fires, job losses and other upheavals. We must take restoration to a new level. This is an imperative for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring a brighter future for people everywhere. In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a productive forum.