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Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Target Setting Building Block Three – Setting LDN Targets

Setting LDN targets and measures

(Source: "Achieving land degradation neutrality at the global level," a publication produced by the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD)

LDN target setting is a political process that utilizes the best available knowledge to set ambitious, yet realistic targets. It means setting broad, yet clear, time-bound and measurable objectives on what a country wants to achieve in terms of halting and reversing land degradation and restoring degraded lands through a wide range of possible measures.

LDN response hierarchy

As a planning principle, LDN involves making land-use decisions according to a response hierarchy that prioritizes the avoidance of land degradation: “Prevention is better than cure”.

Avoidance of land degradation is beneficial from both ecological and economic perspectives. Restoration efforts can succeed in bringing back important ecosystem functions, but often it is not possible to fully restore all of the previous ecosystem services, and restoration can prove to be more costly than prevention.

Some losses are unavoidable as a result of population growth and the need to expand agricultural or settlement areas. In the case of unavoidable degradation, land-use planners should consider counterbalancing this new degradation (losses) by restoring other tracts of land (gains). This is what distinguishes the LDN concept from other land degradation approaches.  

Counterbalancing losses and gains

To achieve this, countries may wish to complement national LDN targets with sub-national ones:

  • LDN at the national level: the ambition is no net loss for the whole land area of a country and all its land cover classes
  • LDN at the sub-national level: LDN targets can also be set for specific regions or defined ecozones

Geographically bound targets for achieving a neutral (no net loss) or improved (net gain) state allow countries to focus on areas that have been identified as degradation hot spots and of high worth in terms of achieving LDN.

The LDN approach also embraces the articulation of more specific targets, which although not conceived in terms of neutrality, contribute to avoiding, reducing and reversing land degradation.

Countries may choose to set their voluntary LDN targets by adopting one or a combination of these approaches.

Examples of LDN targets

LDN at the national level:

  • LDN is achieved by 2030 compared to the 2015 baseline (no net loss)
  • LDN is achieved by 2030 compared to the 2015 baseline plus an additional 10% of the national territory has improved (net gain)
  • LDN is achieved by 2025 as compared to the 2015 baseline (earlier target year)

LDN at the (sub-) national level:

  • LDN is achieved in the Western province of country X by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline (no net loss)
  • LDN is achieved in the Southern province of country X by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline plus an additional 25% of the province territory has improved (net gain)

Specific targets to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation:

  • Improve productivity and Soil Organic Carbon (SOC)
  • SOC stocks in cropland and grasslands by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline
  • Rehabilitate X million hectares of degraded and abandoned land for crop production by 2030
  • Halt the conversion of forests and wetlands to other land cover classes by 2020
  • Increase forest cover by 20% by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline
  • Reduce the rate of soil sealing (conversion to artificial land cover) by 50% by 2030, compared to the 2015 baseline

Key policies and technical measures to achieve LDN targets

There are no prescribed measures to achieve LDN targets. The measures comprise a whole range of possible interventions designed to avoid, reduce or reverse the loss of productive land – the options are as diverse as the forms and drivers of land degradation.

The same diversity applies to the level and scale of activities. Measures may be implemented in the form of policies or plans at the (sub-) national level or in the form of programmes or projects that are tailored to specific ecological and socioeconomic challenges at a given geographical scale.

The involvement of local stakeholders in the selection of options is critical to successful planning and implementation.

Combining approaches for participatory planning with scientific and socioeconomic assessment tools that facilitate the understanding of complex human-ecological  systems , is recommended.

A strategic social and environmental impact assessment (SEIA) is another important part of the planning process for large-scale interventions. A SEIA will anticipate likely consequences of an intervention and identify ways to avoid and reduce potential adverse impacts, such as establishing environmental or social safeguards to reduce risks.

Categories of SLM measures

Sustainable land management interventions can also play an important role in fighting land degradation and can be used for various land use classes.

Four categories of sustainable land management measures

  1. Agronomic measures: measures that improve soil cover (e.g. green cover, mulch), measures that enhance organic matter/soil fertility (e.g. manuring), soil surface treatment (e.g. conservation tillage), subsurface treatment (e.g. deep ripping).
  2. Vegetative measures: plantation/reseeding of tree and shrub species (e.g. live fences, tree crows), grasses and perennial herbaceous plants (e.g. grass strips).
  3. Structural measures: terraces (bench, forward/backward sloping), bunds, banks (level, graded), dams, pans, ditches (level, graded), walls, barriers, palisades.
  4. Management measures: change of land use type (e.g. area enclosure), change of management/intensity level (e.g. from grazing to cut-and-carry), major change in the timing of activities, control/change of species composition.

What are the expected outputs/outcomes?

  • LDN targets are established
  • Key policies and technical measures to achieve LDN are identified
  • A Governmental high-level note on measures to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation is prepared

What support does the LDN TSP provide to participating countries?

  • Support in setting measurable, verifiable, time-bound national voluntary LDN targets
  • Support in identifying specific measures to achieve these targets
  • Support in elaborating a high level note on the implementation of the LDN response hierarchy at the country level
  • Establishes the LDN target setting help-desk platform for technical enquiries from participating countries and for peer learning

Read more:

Learn more about the LDN Target-setting Building Blocks:

Building Block 1

Building Block 2

Building Block 4