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Unpacking the concept of land degradation neutrality and addressing its operation through the Rio Conventions. Journal of Environmental Management

The world's commitment towards land degradation neutrality (LDN) became enshrined in various international agreements and decisions throughout the year 2015.The challenge now becomes one of addressing its operation, in order to achieve these new policy goals and targets by the year 2030.

The three Rio Conventions (the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)) all play key roles in shaping the international LDN governance and implementation context. Their different but related foci create a number of challenges and opportunities for advancing LDN.

Advancing LDN demands attention to what the concept seeks to achieve, as well as unravelling the perspectives of the key multi-lateral environmental agreements through which progress can be made...In this paper the authors critically analyze the literature to elucidate potential challenges and opportunities in moving LDN towards implementation, considering the mandates and objectives of all three Rio Conventions. They first unpack the concept of LDN's aspirations. 

The authors highlight the importance of the definitions and terminology used, and the relationships between those definitions, terms and the actors using them, as well as their implications in framing the range of policy actions and synergies that could benefit progress towards multiple Sustainable Development Goals.They examine the LDN pilot project spearheaded by the UNCCD to identify key lessons for LDN implementation.

Synthesizing these lessons, they present a portfolio of blended interventions that seeks to address the aspirations of the UNCCD, UNFCCC and CBD in the LDN space, identifying synergistic options for national actions to move towards LDN. Overall, their analysis provides insights in advancing LDN from its current position as a policy target, towards synergetic action..


  • Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is now entering its operational phase. 
  • Different foci of the Rio Conventions yield challenges and opportunities for LDN. 
  • Operationalizing LDN necessitates unpacking the concept and associated terms. 
  • Synergetic actions across Conventions support rehabilitation, restoration and SLM. 
  • Synergy is vital for policy alignment and cost-effective action on LDN.

(Mariam Akhtar-Schuster, Lindsay C. Stringer, Alexander Erlewein, Graciela Metternicht, Sara Minelli, Uriel Safriel, Stefan Sommer). In press, corrected proof, Journal of Environmental Management, 22 September 2016