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Land is Missing Link in Pursuit of Sustainable Development, New UNCCD Report Warns

​4 May 2012 – Agreeing on a sustainable development goal on land-use at Rio+20 is a prerequisite for ensuring future water, food and energy security, according to a new policy brief commissioned by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

The brief, “A Sustainable Development Goal for Rio+20: Zero Net Land Degradation,” reveals that productive land is the missing link in the pursuit of sustainable development. It urges the world leaders, who will gather at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Brazil this June, to focus on the natural capital that the global population shares.  

With the demand for food expected to grow by 50 percent in 2030 and for energy and water by 45 and 30 percent respectively, an additional 120 million hectares of productive land will be needed to support the required food production.

At present, each year 12 million hectares of productive land are lost due to land degradation and desertification. On this land, 20 million tons of grain could grow. Globally, 1.5 billion people are directly affected by land degradation.

Land is under increasing pressure from competing uses for agriculture, forestry, pasture as well as energy production, urbanization and extraction of raw materials, which is often exacerbated by misguided or missing policies.

“Land is the foundation of our sustainability. It is our natural ally. Nurtured properly, it will ensure prosperity for the present and future generations. I am pleased to present this policy brief, which details a simple, efficient and economically rational way, without which sustainable development cannot be achieved”, UNCCD Executive Secretary Luc Gnacadja said on Friday.

The proposed Zero Net Land Degradation goal can be achieved when land degradation is either avoided or offset by land restoration.  The goal is underlined by the following targets: zero net land degradation by 2030, zero net forest degradation by 2030 and drought preparedness policies implemented in all drought-prone countries by 2020.

The policy brief also makes recommendations to the international community on the ways to achieve Zero Net Land Degradation:

1. Agree a sustainable development goal at Rio+20 on Zero Net Land Degradation
2. Agree a stronger international framework, such as protocol to the UNCCD on land and soil, to empower global action with the required speed and scale
3. Establish an Intergovernmental Panel/Platform on Land and Soil to serve as a credible and transparent global authority on scientific knowledge on land degradation and desertification
4. Undertake a comprehensive assessment of the “Economics of Land Degradation”

The policy brief, which will be officially launched on 23 May in Berlin, draws on a forthcoming technical paper, prepared by several renowned land experts and scientists for the UNCCD secretariat.  

​For more information please see the executive summary and flyer  of the policy brief 

Or contact: 

Ms Wagaki Mwangi
Public Information and Media Officer
UNCCD Secretariat
Tel: +49-228-815-2820
Email: wmwangi@unccd.int


Notes to Editors:

About UNCCD
Established in 1994, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development issues to sustainable land management. The UNCCD addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands. The Convention’s 194 Parties are working to improve the living conditions in the drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

About Rio+20
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD), also known as Rio+20, will take place in Brazil on 20-22 June 2012. It will mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, and the 10th anniversary of the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg. The Conference will result in a political document, which will renew political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date and address new and emerging challenges.

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