Honorable Mr. Batbayar, Deputy Minister for Environment and Tourism,
Distinguished representatives from development partner and project counterparts;
Ladies and gentlemen:
Welcome to this closing workshop of the “Land Degradation Offset and Mitigation” project implemented in Western Mongolia”.
It is hard to overstate the threat posed by land degradation to Mongolia’s remarkable landscapes, ecosystems and wildlife due to various factors. As a result of climate change and human activity, 70% of land has already been degraded. One quarter has, in fact, turned to desert. Declining carrying capacity and productivity of land resources directly impacts the nation’s productivity and efforts for equitable and sustainable development. It is, therefore, crucial that Mongolia develops and implements policies to mainstream mitigation, offsetting and rehabilitation of degraded land into its national agenda.
That is why, in its almost 3 years of implementation, this project – between UNDP and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism – has worked to reduce the negative impact of mining on rangelands in Mongolia’s west. It did so by helping the Government and mining companies to put policies and practices in place to pursue a so-called “mitigation hierarchy”. This involves firstly, avoiding damage to the land to begin with. Secondly, keeping damage that cannot be avoided to a minimum. Thirdly, rehabilitating damaged land. And fourthly, offsetting damage to one area, by preserving and protecting other areas of similar characteristics.
The project has also introduced “offsetting for land degradation” approaches into landscape-level planning and management, making Mongolia part of the emerging global trend towards land degradation offsetting. In doing so, the project has contributed to strengthening the legal and planning framework to address the ecological consequences of mining.
Equally, at the local level, it has engaged communities, to encourage behavioral insights and individual as well as collective actions to protect the land. This has built capacities at all levels, creating partnerships across sectors and society, to share best practices for land restoration and sustainable management.
In western Mongolia, ecologically diverse landscapes that were lost in many parts of the world are still relatively intact, providing important habitat for seasonal wildlife migrations. While mining is currently less developed in these regions, the Government’s economic development plans for the West are likely to result in rapid mining development in the future. This makes the mitigation hierarchy and offset for land degradation in the Western provinces even more timely, to prevent harm to these unique rangelands and sustain pastoralism as a key contributor to local economies in future.
This project also represents an important step towards Mongolia realizing the Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, which aim to ensure a society that includes everyone, and a planet that can sustain everyone. Land degradation offsetting contributes to strengthening sustainable resource management and makes it the business of mining companies, as well as the Government. This will help Mongolia to adapt to climate change, reduce poverty and strengthen the rural livelihoods most at risk, so that no one is left behind.
By considering vulnerable people and places, companies too stand to gain. Tomorrow’s profits depend on today’s planet and populations. It takes sustained natural and human resources, to grow over time. And those resources must be invested in. We estimate that two thirds of the funds and technology needed to end poverty and save our planet must come from corporations – given how many are now bigger than countries. And, if the environment supports the economy, it’s good business to support the environment.
As we celebrate the fruits of collaboration across the private sector, government and everyone who made this project possible, I would like to thank our partners – the Government of Mongolia, Ministry of Environment and Tourism, the mining companies who chose to do business more sustainably, and all other parties. I would also like to thank the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for their generous financial support.
UNDP in Mongolia remains your committed partner in building rural resilience and protecting Mongolia’s spectacular environment over the years to come. Thank you.