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UNEP Global Environment Outlook 6 (2019) calls on decision makers to address pressing environmental problems among which land degradation as an increasing threat for human well-being and ecosystems.

UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (2019) calls on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement.This flagship report shows how governments can put the world on the path to a truly sustainable future. It emphasizes that urgent and inclusive action is needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet with healthy people.

 Excerpt from the Key messages 

Land degradation is an increasing threat for human well-being and ecosystems, especially for those in rural areas who are most dependent on land productivity. Land degradation hotspots cover approximately 29 per cent of global land, where 3.2 billion people reside.

  • More investment in indicators that integrate different data sources and delineate clearly gender and inequality aspects, will enable better designed policy interventions and their evaluation.
  • Further developments are needed in environmental and natural resource accounting to ensure that environmental costs are internalised into economic decision making for sustainability.
  • Most important is the need to take bold, urgent, sustained, inclusive and transformative action that integrates environmental, economic and social activity to put society on pathways to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, multilateral environmental agreements, internationally agreed environmental goals and other science-based targets.

The sixth Global Environmental Outlook has been released while environmental ministers from around the world are in Nairobi to participate in the world’s highest-level environmental forum. Negotiations at the Fourth UN Environment Assembly are expected to tackle critical issues such as stopping food waste, promoting the spread of electric mobility, and tackling the crisis of plastic pollution in our oceans, among many other pressing challenges.

The report advises adopting less-meat intensive diets, and reducing food waste in both developed and developing countries, would reduce the need to increase food production by 50% to feed the projected 9-10 billion people on the planet in 2050. At present, 33 per cent of global edible food is wasted, and 56 per cent of waste happens in industrialized countries, the report states.

  • Achieving land degradation neutrality by 2030 is regarded as critical for attaining other key international goals related to reducing biodiversity loss and deforestation, improving human welfare, and climate change adaptation and mitigation

Excerpt from Measuring Progress: Towards Achieving the Environmental Dimension of the SDGS

For the indicators without enough data to assess the trend at the global level, it is likely that there is a negative trend in terms of the state of the environment due to the fact that these areas are still receiving less attention in terms of policy interventions and investment in monitoring. This includes the indicators related to land degradation and land use (SDG target 15.3 and 11.3); coastal eutrophication, marine litter and ocean acidification (SDG targets 14.1 and 14.3); water quality and water stress (SDG target 6.3 and SDG target 6.4); and mountains (SDG target 15.4).

Download individual chapters. Some references  extracted from  Chapter 8 Land and soil and 15 Land and soil policy 

  • Land is one of the most data-rich domains due to the effectiveness of earth observation in monitoring land surfaces, but there are still notable data gaps and quality issues. Earth observation generally measures the quantity rather than the quality of change, and is unable to measure certain processes. For example, there is agreement that land degradation has increased, but it is not done often and is inconsistently measured. The interrelationships between the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) and land degradation are often difficult to generalize and transfer, since land use and biophysical conditions are changing regionally.
  • As noted in chapter 8, land plays a crucial role within the ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’ theme and underpins global efforts towards sustainable development. Consequently, sustainable land management (SLM) is not only essential to promoting and maintaining the great diversity of nature’s contribution to people but also in tackling poverty and hunger.
  • At the international level, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize the need for SLM among stakeholders for the protection of natural ecosystems that are on the verge of collapse, including increased climate-induced natural disasters. SDG 15 is directly related to the analysis in Chapter 8. Furthermore, SDG target 15.3 focuses on land by demanding action against land degradation and efforts to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.
  • Although land management is explicitly targeted in SDG 15.3, it is paramount for food security (SDG 2), climate action (SDG 13) and also has many interconnections with SDGs 1, 3, 6, 7, 11 and 12 (Figure 15.1)  See page 376
  • Economic optimism and land degradation. Land degradation is a key global issue due to its adverse impacts on the environment, agricultural productivity and human welfare. The current paradigm of land management usually considers that the losses caused by land degradation and mismanagement can be compensated by increasing inputs in agriculture
  • The success of any strategy for combating desertification depends on the implementation of sustainable land and water management practices adapted to the specific local geo-biophysical and socioeconomic situation. Well-managed soils slow down the process of land degradation, regulate the water cycle, safeguard biodiversity, conserve landscape multifunctionality and improve the provision of ecosystem services (p.380)

Results of the UNCCD Global Land Outloook were used for the thematic chapter on land and soil and relevant cross-cutting issues, like food security, including policy responses and outlooks.

For your ease of reference : The full text GEO 6 report ; the Chapter 8 and Chapter 15 you can find in our library