12 September 2007The linked scourges of desertification and climate change are impeding the achievement of key development targets, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today. The “twin threats” of desertification and climate change “pose unrivalled challenges to humanity,” he said in a message to the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in running from 3-14 September in Madrid. “They demand an unprecedented response from all of us.”Desertification and climate change, which he characterized as “two major manifestations of the same problem,” also are obstacles to reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the series of eight anti-poverty targets, by 2015.Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have contributed to global warming, he noted, while shifting weather patterns could potentially aggravate desertification, drought and food security for people living in dry areas, especially in Africa.The Secretary-General said that global warming can also lead to increased poverty, forced migration and vulnerability to conflict in regions impacted by extreme weather events.“Conversely, concerted efforts to combat desertification – by reclaiming degraded land, combating soil loss and restoring vegetation – can help curb greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen the resilience of affected countries and build their capacity to adapt to climate change,” he said.Mr. Ban voiced hope that both the Conference, which is meeting in its eighth session, and a high-level informal dialogue on climate change scheduled for 24 September in New York will set the stage for the upcoming major December summit in Bali, Indonesia.That meeting seeks to determine future action on mitigation, adaptation, the global carbon market and financing responses to climate change for the period after the expiry of the Kyoto Protocol – the current global framework for reducing greenhouse gas emissions – in 2012.Last week, the Secretary-General appointed Luc Gnacadja, a former environment minister from Benin, as the UNCCD’s new Executive Secretary. He will succeed Hama Arba Diallo of Burkina Faso, who resigned on 19 June.