The Old World is not prepared for the fight against desertification that lies in store. A report from European auditors raised the alert about the lack of means available at a European level to deal with this threat.
Mario Muñoz Lozano
The warning came from the European Court of Auditors concerned with cautioning that the risk of desertification “is not being dealt with in an effective or efficient manner” in the Eurozone and that it is one of the consequences of climate change that especially threatens Spain and the continent’s southern regions.
The study asserts that despite desertification and soil deterioration being present and growing threats within the European Union (EU), the Commission “does not have a clear picture of these issues, and the measures taken to fight desertification lack coherence”.
The document concludes that “no strategy exists in the EU to deal with desertification and the deterioration of soil quality”.
Environmentalist groups and Green parties from the region had previously warned that droughts and desertification are not just a real pain for Latin American and African countries, which have until now been the countries to suffer most from such catastrophes.
Between September 2017 and May 2018, the auditors reexamined the documents and strategies in place and made visits to Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal and Romania – countries which had declared themselves affected by desertification.
These five European countries recognised their vulnerability due to the convergence of different variables including climate conditions, vegetation, human activity and risks that make the spread of desertification possible.
Since as early as 2008, for example, the National Action Programme for Spain reflected the fact that 74% of the country is at risk of desertification, the same figure presented last year in the European Auditor’s Court report.
The report identifies that 18% of the country is at high or very high risk, whilst 19% is at medium risk.
It adds that the situation is “of particular concern” in the regions of Murcia, Valencia and the Canary Islands, where the risk of desertification is high or “very high” across more than 90% of the territory.
The European Commission, responding to the investigators, acknowledged that the risks of desertification and soil deterioration “could be better tackled” and that they were part of a proposal about the soil which the Commission decided to withdraw “in the absence of a qualified majority in the Council over eight years”.
The auditors have directed criticism towards modern-day Europe for not having “a shared vision of how to achieve net zero soil deterioration by 2030”, one of the commitments that the EU itself proposed, but which, judging by the Court of Auditors’ report, it has yet to address.
According to experts, desertification is when soil quality degrades in zones with an arid, semiarid or subhumid-dry climate, and has two fundamental causes: human activity and climate changes.
Desertification is due to the vulnerability of the ecosystem in dry zones, which cover a third of the planet’s surface, to overexploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation negatively affect the soil’s productivity.
According to the United Nations (UN), conditions of desertification and drought will leave 1.8 billion people with a total lack of access to water by 2025, and two-thirds of the global population will not have satisfactory water resources.
Studies carried out by the UN indicate that by 2045 around 135 million people around the world will have been displaced as a consequence of desertification.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development states that to tackle these challenges, “we are determined to protect the planet from degradation, including through sustainable production and consumption, sustainable management of natural resources and by taking urgent measures against climate change”.
Specifically, Objective 15 of this global action plan crystallises the determination of the 193 signatory countries to decelerate and reverse soil deterioration.
The subject will have to be on many governments’ agendas because the survival of over two billion of the world’s population depends upon the ecosystems of arid regions; 90% of these people live in developing countries. (PL)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay