Land degradation neutrality
(Source: "Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality at the country level," a publication produced by the Global Mechanims of the UNCCD)
Desertification is threatening the livelihoods of 1 billion people in over 100 countries, and each year 12 million hectares of arable land are lost to drought. The extent and severity of land degradation worldwide, combined with the negative effects of climate change, population growth and an ever-increasing demand for natural resources, requires immediate and assertive action. The economic costs of desertification and land degradation are estimated at USD 490 billion per year. Avoiding land degradation through sustainable land management can generate up to USD 1.4 trillion of economic benefits.
Policies and programmes to halt and reverse land degradation have long suffered from the absence of a clear overarching goal and quantitative, time-bound targets to guide action and make measurable progress. In October 2015, UNCCD country Parties reached a breakthrough agreement on the land degradation neutrality (LDN) concept.
The LDN concept has been developed to encourage implementation of an optimal mix of measures designed to avoid, reduce and/or reverse land degradation in order to achieve a state of no net loss of healthy and productive land. LDN aims to balance anticipated losses in land-based natural capital and associated ecosystem functions and services with measures that produce alternative gains through approaches such as land restoration and sustainable land management.
LDN is a simple idea and a powerful tool. It means securing enough healthy and productive natural resources by avoiding degradation whenever possible and restoring land that has already been degraded. At its core are better land management practices and better land use planning that will improve economic, social and ecological sustainability for present and future generations.
Numerous direct links exist between LDN and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), such as eradicating poverty, ensuring food security, protecting the environment and using natural resources sustainably. LDN serves as a catalyst in achieving these goals.
LDN and climate change
LDN provides significant benefits in terms of mitigation and adaptation to climate change. Halting and reversing land degradation can transform land from being a source of greenhouse gas emissions to a carbon sink, by increasing carbon stocks in soils and vegetation. Furthermore, LDN plays a key role in strengthening the resilience of rural communities against climate shocks by securing and improving the provision of vital ecosystem services.
These links between land and climate are reflected in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by countries to COP 21 of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris in 2015. More than 100 of the INDCs included land-based activities for mitigation and adaptation. LDN targets and associated measures contribute to and depend on the implementation of national climate plans and vice versa. Such synergies should be taken into account when developing national plans for LDN and revising and updating the INDCs under the Paris Agreement.