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International Desertification and Drought Day 2020

Remarks by President Tarja Halonen on 11th of June 2020


Dear friends,

I am honored to join you again on this year’s Desertification and Drought Day as your Good Will Ambassador to the convention. I am going to talk about the linkages between land use and clothing production. But most importantly, I’m going to talk about how we, you and I, can make a difference.

This year’s focus is on changing public attitudes towards the leading drivers of desertification, namely, over production and over overconsumption. This year also marks the start of the 10-year countdown to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals – and we are in a hurry. The theme “Food. Feed. Fibre” touches upon several of the SDGs.

Overconsumption and unsustainable production of food and clothing have negative effects on climate and biodiversity, but also on food security. COVID-19 pandemic will likely further exacerbate this.

There is also another important matter: land use by the fashion industry. This is not a small part of the equation. In 10 years’ time, when we should be achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the fashion industry will likely use 35 % more land than now. This is over 115 million hectares more and equals the size of Nordic countries, or Colombia – combined.

The impacts of fashion industry to climate is also significant. It produces 10 % of all carbon emissions. That is more emissions than all international flights and maritime shipping together.

All of this is interlinked.  The health and productivity of existing arable land is declining and this is worsened by climate change. At the same time, the emissions from fashion industry and unsustainable food production aggravate climate change.

But the good news is: you can make a difference in your everyday life.

When it comes to clothing, there are many simple things we can do to save natural resources: we can recycle clothes and avoid fast-fashion. There are also possibilities for groundbreaking innovations, such as production of sustainable fibres and waste-to-fibre technologies. Our sustainable choices as consumers can send a powerful signal to businesses and policymakers.

My trust and hope is specially in the youth. But we all, at all ages, can make a difference together.