NEW DELHI - A major UN conference on fighting desertification agreed on Friday to make the Sustainable Development Goal target of achieving “land degradation neutrality” (LDN), a national target for action.

The Governments which are party to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), met in the Indian capital of New Delhi over ten days for COP14, adopting a series of breakthrough measures in the accord, known as the Delhi Declaration.

Besides the LDN agreement - whereby countries have pledged to halt the degradation of land to the point where ecosystems and land use can no longer be supported - there was a landmark decision to boost global efforts to mitigate and manage the risks of crippling drought.

Countries will also now be expected to address insecurity of land tenure, including gender inequality; promote land restoration to reduce land-related carbon emissions; and mobilize innovative sources of finance from public and private sources to support the implementation of these decisions at a national level.

“We have woken up to the fact that we will see more frequent and severe droughts, a phenomenon that will be exacerbated by climate change”, said Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UNCCD.

“To my mind, this was the COP where we put people at the heart of what we do”, he added, with Parties adopting a breakthrough decision on land tenure rights and drawing on the “unique voices, experiences of youth and women.”

Mr. Thiaw also drew attention to the contribution of COP 14 to the upcoming Climate Action Summit in New York, stressing that land restoration, at scale, is one of the cheapest solutions to address the global crises of climate and biodiversity loss.

He said the key message to the upcoming New York Summit was clear, “investing in land, unlocks multiple opportunities.”

The UN desertification chief also drew attention to the role that the private sector can play in land restoration going forward. He said it was important for businesses to be incentivized to help conserve land for sustainable use, through national regulations that support sustainable land management, and reward conservation, restoration and innovation.

The Conference drew the interest of nearly 9,000 participants. Delegates, including ministers, heads of United Nations and intergovernmental bodies, youth, local governments, business leaders and representatives of non-governmental organizations

Prakash Javadekar, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change and President of COP 14, reiterated the country’s commitment to achieving land degradation neutrality by the SDG target year of 2030. He also promised to provide effective leadership to the UNCCD during his two-year presidency.