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Exploring future changes in land use and land condition and the impacts on food, water, climate change and biodiversity

The Secretariat of UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has launched its new flagship report on the current and future state of the world’s land resources. It described the ‘Global Land Outlook’ (GLO) as “the first in-depth analysis of the multiple functions of the land viewed from a wide range of interrelated sectors and thematic areas,” such as the food-water-land nexus, as well as the “less obvious drivers” of land use change, notably the nature of economic growth, consumer choice and global trade patterns.

Due to be published every four years, the Global Land Outlook addresses challenges facing land restoration and management in the context of sustainable development. It links land to challenges across: food, water and energy security; climate change and biodiversity conservation; urban, peri-urban and infrastructure development; land tenure, governance and gender; and migration, conflict and human security. It also examines a growing disconnect between the financial and socio-economic values of land and how this impacts the poor.

Presenting the report in a launch event at the COP 13 Tech Fair and Exhibition, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said studies reveal that land degradation and drought are global challenges and “intimately linked to most, if not all aspects of human security and well-being – food security, employment and migration, in particular.” She said the publication presents a vision for transforming the way in which we use and manage land, “because we are all decision-makers and our choices can make a difference.”

UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said land degradation and drought intimately link to most, if not all, aspects of human security and well-being – food security, employment and migration, in particular.

Along with the GLO, the UNCCD also released a series of working papers meant to “provide an expanded format as well as an additional vehicle for those authors invited to contribute to the GLO main report.” The working papers address topics such as: land and water; energy; gender; landscape management; land tenure; planning; value chains; migration; peace; rural-urban linkages; restoration; drylands; and soils, among others.

The Secretariat also released the ‘Exploring future changes in land use and land condition and the impacts on food, water, climate change and biodiversity,’ which are scenarios for the GLO. During a COP 13 side event to present the GLO scenarios study, PBL-Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, outlined some of the key findings. They reported that the study aimed to provide policymakers with quantitative information on the order of magnitude of future change to the land system, and to support the debate on policy priorities and interventions. Key themes addressed in the scenarios study include: exploring multiple demands on land and how these are likely to change under alternative future developments up to 2050; how that will affect the challenges facing global sustainability ambitions; and the extent to which land degradation may exacerbate these challenges.

The projections focused on trends sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Northern Africa, and South Asia, which the study characterizes as facing a combination of land-related challenges that are much more serious than those faced by other regions, notably high levels of population growth, low current levels of GDP per capita, generally low crop yields, intense pressure on agricultural expansion, marked increases in water stress, and a dependency on food imports from other regions. The report concludes that, particularly for sub-Saharan Africa, where these negative trends in productivity and soil conditions are most severe, there is a critical need for sustainable land management (SLM) to maintain ecosystem functions for the benefit of agriculture and the water cycle.

The GLO is published by the UNCCD Secretariat with the support of numerous partners, including the European Commission, the Governments of the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands and Switzerland, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Several chapters of the report were co-authored by members of the UNCCD’s Science-Policy Interface (SPI). Available in all six UN languages, the report is accompanied by nearly 20 working papers, journal articles and other background studies. [Global Land Outlook Webpage] [Working Paper Series] [UNCCD Press Release] [UNCCD PR] [UNDP Press Release] [UN Press Release]