United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)


HQ: Bonn, Germany

Focal Point: K. Somarajan Pillai 


Key figures: Greenhouse gas emissions

Key figures: Waste

Key Figures: Water


** Please note that the following information was last updated November 2017 **



Adopted as a direct recommendation of the 1992 Rio Summit, UNCCD is the only international legally binding instrument to effectively tackle desertification and the effects of drought. As such it has brought attention to the immense challenges of land degradation and its impacts on some of the most vulnerable ecosystems in the world. Today, the UNCCD enjoys almost universal membership with 193 Parties and is recognized as one of the Rio Generation conventions that make a lasting contribution to the achievement of global sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Experience so far

The carbon neutral initiative launched for COP-9 was very well received by parties and other stakeholders. Challenges faced were mainly related to technical considerations linked to the first time use of such a system. For instance, the system conceived was based on a corporate offsetting strategy, whereby carbon emissions of UN staff and funded participants was offset upstream of the process, whereas concerned participants would have also liked to personally contribute to the initiative.

Reduction efforts 

  • Improve the environmental soundness of building management practices at our Headquarters by centralizing services for all co-located agencies with a service provider committed to the objectives of green management
  • Promote the use of public transport services and bicycles
  • Include offsetting costs in fund-raising strategy (special voluntary fund), relevant annexes of Host Country Agreements as well as in the travel plan
  • Green procurement


The ninth session of the Conference of Parties (COP) in the fall of 2009 was organized to be climate neutral, partly using sponsorship for offsetting its greenhouse gasses emissions, and partly relying on voluntary carbon offsets. In view of their mandates, the Secretariat and the Host Country, Argentina, went further than the EMG stipulations. The Secretariat and the Secretary of Environment of Argentina will endeavour to link the emission offsets to projects through which the offsets are directly translated to real-life effects on the ground that are related to mitigation of land degradation and preservation of biodiversity. UNCCD is moving from climate neutrality towards full “environmental” neutrality, taking advantage of synergies among Rio Conventions at local level.

The Secretariat provided technical advice in the development and launching of the Great Green Wall for the Sahara initiative, the launching of projects to stabilize sand dunes in China and a reforestation project in Argentina. The projects promoted go a long way in enhancing carbon sequestration through tree planting. The UNCCD Secretariat has also provided funding to a number of African countries for Youth Projects through UNV. The bulk of the funds went to tree planting projects in Ethiopia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Next steps

The UNCCD Secretariat has engaged in the system-wide UN reflection on the emission reduction strategy. As a result of this process and based on objective considerations, such as core mandate, size and administrative arrangements, the secretariat has chosen to address the question through the specific topic of the environmental impact generated by the statutory governing bodies' meetings of the Convention.

As process-wise this constitutes the main challenge in terms of greenhouse gas impact, the secretariat is committed to enhance its meeting management and planning approach, including scheduling of back-to-back meetings that might reduce emissions generated by delegates and UN staff travel by up to half.

The secretariat is firmly dedicated to further reduce carbon emissions through pioneering and diversified approaches based on systematic exploration, testing and assessment of innovative and green solutions, including virtual and paperless meetings as well as staff personal commitment.