Land and Climate Change

Land matters for climate. Its rehabilitation and sustainable management is critical to closing the emissions gap and staying on target.

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Restoring the soils of degraded ecosystems has the potential to store up to 3 billion tons of carbon annually.

Land and Climate Change

Figure 1. The structure and functioning of managed and unmanaged ecosystems that affect local, regional and global climate

Figure 1. The structure and functioning of managed and unmanaged ecosystems that affect local, regional and global climate.Source: IPCC, 2019

Land is fundamentally linked to both climate change mitigation and adaptation. The land-use sector has great potential to reduce emissions, sequester carbon and increase both human and biophysical resilience. While has positive implications for all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), achieving these multiple benefits, ambitious climate action on land is required. Land – including soil, water and biodiversity – is increasingly exposed to the impact of climate change, droughts and flash floods; the IPCC special report on climate and land is a testament to this.

This increased vulnerability is a growing issue in most if not all regions all world.For many countries, immediate action can provide verified, cost-effective opportunities which could be supported by international cooperation and commitments.

Figure 2. Socio-economic impacts of desertification and climate change with the SDG framework

Figure 2. Socio-economic impacts of desertification and climate change with the SDG framework. Source: IPCC, 2019.

A large and growing evidence demonstrates that sustainable land management and restoration often provide positive and lasting contributions toward societal well-being and sustainability. This includes multiple benefits such as jobs, disaster risk reduction, ecological benefits, climate change mitigation and adaptation, public health, and security for current and future generations.

Many countries have already developed action plans to address land degradation and climate change by setting both carbon and land degradation neutrality targets. Achieving these simultaneously is more likely when considerable synergies between sustainable land management, climate change mitigation and social resilience are harnessed. These nature-based solutions can help address many of challenges the Earth and humanity are facing. 

Figure 3. Sustainable land management (SLM) as a holistic vehicle to achieve the objectives of the three Rio Conventions, and the SDG 15 (15.3) and SDG 13 primarily, but also relevant for SDG 1, 2, 3, 6 and SDG 13

Figure 3. Sustainable land management (SLM) as a holistic vehicle to achieve the objectives of the three Rio Conventions, and the SDG 15 (15.3) and SDG 13 primarily, but also relevant for SDG 1, 2, 3, 6 and SDG 13. Source: UNCCD, 2017.

Land degradation neutrality (LDN) provides a framework where conservation, sustainable use and restoration act as three pillars to capitalize on the synergies among the three Rio conventions, leading to integrated land use planning, landscape management and smart design to optimize the co-location of food, energy and nature interventions. The IPCC has documented, with high confidence, that policies promoting LDN – which is contained within SDG Target 15.3 – can also enhance food security, human wellbeing and climate change adaptation and mitigation.

The UN General Assembly (see A/C.2/74/L.41/Rev.1, paragraphs 6 and 8, and A/RES/73/233, paragraph 2) has recently reaffirmed that achieving LDN has the potential to act as an accelerator and integrator for achieving the SDGs and the overall objectives of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, and recognized that land-based solutions provide promising options for sequestering carbon and enhancing the resilience of people and ecosystems affected by desertification, land degradation and drought, as well as the adverse effects of climate change. Thus, it is essential  to ensure more effective collaboration on every level of policy-making and implementation.

Figure 4. Land-based actions to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals

Figure 4. Land-based actions to achieve multiple Sustainable Development Goals. Source: UNCCD, 2017.

The latest findings of the IPCC and the IPBES highlight the role of the land-use sector as critical to protecting livelihoods, climate and biodiversity. Addressing desertification, land degradation and drought is key for climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is a cost-effective solution, when coupled with rapid de-carbonization, to reduce and sequester carbon emissions and restore biodiversity. Many sustainable land management practices yield net climate benefits: actions to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation can provide more than one-third of the climate mitigation needed to keep global warming under 2°C by 2030. While the science on land and climate is progressing steadily, there is a need for more cooperation in knowledge management and capacity building, as well as a people-centric approach with particular emphasis on women's empowerment and protection of the most vulnerable.

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