STAP’s Participation at the UNCCD COP 11

STAP event 2[T]he Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility (STAP/GEF) led two side events at the 11th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) held during the first week of the COP – 16th to 20th September 2013 in Windhoek, Namibia. The side events were organized jointly with the GEF.

The side events titled, “Global Environment Facility – Carbon Sequestration – A Valuable Global Benefit of Sustainable Land Management”; and, “The Global Environment Facility’s Carbon Benefits Project – new tools to measure carbon & the GEF’s experience applying the tools”, were held on 16th and 18th September 2013.

To find more information on this event, click here.

The objectives of the side events were as follows:

  1. Demonstrate the importance of the current work of the GEF Land Degradation Focal Area, with special reference to sustainable land management and the potential benefits derived from above- and below-ground sequestration of carbon.
  2. Illustrate our current scientific understanding of the relationship between soil organic carbon management and its importance to sustainable land management.
  3. Demonstrate a set of the carbon tools developed by UNEP-GEF’s Carbon Benefits Project and show how Parties could use the tools to monitor and report on Strategic Objective 3 (to generate global benefits through effective implementation of the UNCCD).
  4.  Contribute towards policies that support UNCCD’s efforts to generate global benefits through sustainable land management.

Gerard Govers, University of Leuven, Belgium, presented the scientific evidence as to how, why, and under what circumstances global benefits could be achieved through sustainable land management. This evidence is elaborated further in the STAP publication “Managing soil organic carbon for global benefits”, published by STAP in August 2013.  At the session, participants demonstrated an interest in understanding further the implications of soil organic carbon management on agricultural productivity and livelihoods. This included the vital effects of soil carbon management on plant available water – an important element for drylands, and areas affected by climate change risks, such as drought.

Eleanor Milne, Colorado State University, featured the simple assessment tool and the detailed assessment tool developed by the UNEP/GEF Carbon Benefits Project (CBP). The second half of the session profiled the GEF Agencies (UNEP, UNDP and IFAD) experiences with the carbon tools in land management projects, and sustainable forest management projects. The outcomes of the session demonstrated the GEF Agencies are testing the tools in land management and sustainable forest management projects, and showing their utility in practical project situations. Similarly, challenges in using the tools also were demonstrated – especially when applied to peatlands, since the values for the parameters in the tools are not well enough understood.   Additionally, the discussions featured how the tools are being used to validate carbon sequestered in projects on payment for ecosystem services. This demonstrated a prospect for using the tools beyond the expected reporting on carbon stock changes from land management projects.

Further information about the side events can be found at this link. The presentations also can be downloaded through here.

At the COP 11, STAP also observed the UNCCD’s Committee on Science and Technology and its discussions. Of interest to STAP for the development of its advice to the GEF, were several agenda items, notably:  “Advice on how best to measure progress on strategic objectives 1, 2 and 3 of The Strategy”. The agenda item featured advice by UNCCD’s Advisory Group of Technical Experts (AGTE) – an ad hoc group consisting of the scientific community and its efforts to refine the impact indicators of the 10-year Strategy. STAP is a member of the AGTE, and advised UNCCD on indicators prior to the establishment of this advisory group.

The AGTE proposal was adopted, with amendments.  STAP’s role in the AGTE was instrumental – above all in identifying an indicator for strategic objective 3: “Total terrestrial system carbon”. Equally, STAP’s advice encouraged the use of the CBP methodology so that countries can estimate carbon stock changes and report on their progress in addressing strategic objective 3: “To generate global benefits through effective implementation of the UNCCD”. STAP’s contributions in the AGTE were made possible through its advisory partnership with the GEF on the land degradation focal area – combined with its thorough scientific understanding of the UNEP/GEF Carbon Benefits Project. Ultimately, this is an example of STAP’s commitment to the GEF as it seeks to strengthen the scientific and technical coherence with the UNCCD to deliver global benefits.

The AGTE’s technical report and its recommendations to the CST and the COP can be accessed below, along with the final decision from these two UNCCD bodies.

Refinement of the Set of Impact Indicators on Strategic Objectives 1, 2 and 3 - Recommendations of the ad hoc Advisory Group of Technical Experts

Advice on How Best to Measure Progress on Strategic Objectives 1, 2 and 3 of The Strategy - Draft Decision Submitted by the Chairperson of the Committee on Science and Technology