Scientists call on world leaders to combat desertification

Hundreds of scientists, experts and policy-makers called on world leaders to make the fight against desertification a priority, in a declaration they adopted during a major UN conference on the issue held in Tunis this week.

The Tunis Declaration sets out research priorities to promote the sustainable development of drylands. Its authors point to the interdependence of biodiversity conservation, integrated water management, finding sustainable livelihoods for the inhabitants of drylands and renewable energies suited to such conditions.

Other priorities set out in the declaration include counting the costs of land degradation to provide an incentive for action, and the need to improve our ability to cope with disasters linked to desertification.

About a third of the earth’s land surface is under risk of desertification, which already affects the lives of about 250m people, with another 1.2bn people in 110 countries threatened.

An estimated 60m of the inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to migrate to North Africa and Europe by 2020, the scientists said.

They estimate the economic effects of drought and desertification at US$42bn annually, with another US$2.4bn spent on combating land degradation.

Walter Erdelen, assistant director-general of UNESCO for natural sciences said he hoped for the Tunis Declaration to become “a major step forward on the joint path of the scientific community and decision-makers to help promote sustainable development in the world’s drylands and to reach the overall Millennium Development Goals.

“We must promote and apply sound science for dryland development,” he said.

The conference website can be accessed here.

Goska Romanowicz

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie