In a positive environmental turn, a record 120 countries are in the process of setting voluntary land degradation neutrality (LDN) targets that could reduce the loss of productive land dramatically by 2030. At least 80 countries have already set targets, whose implementation could reverse land degradation globally, contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Land, and build the resilience of communities threatened by extreme and erratic weather events such as droughts, flashfloods and dust and sand storms.
Achieving LDN is vital to maintaining healthy lands and the sustainability of the ecosystem services the land provides. LDN is a key element of SDG target 15.3, and is recognized as an accelerator for achieving several other SDGs by 2030, including those on reducing hunger and poverty and tackling climate change.
By 2015, more than a third of the land available globally was degraded, and a recent report found that 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated land surface showed persistent declining trends from 1998 to 2013. By setting a voluntary target to achieve LDN by 2030, a government declares its willingness to ensure that the amount of productive land that was available in 2015 stays stable going forward.
The setting of voluntary LDN targets has received a high level of interest and political commitment in many countries. National and international stakeholders and experts on land degradation, from government, the public and private sectors and civil society, jointly analysed the drivers of land degradation in their respective countries and defined the LDN targets and associated measures.
The process was participatory and consultative. It was coordinated through LDN working groups, which created opportunities for the stakeholders to engage in a national dialogue on land degradation and to find measures to integrate LDN into national policies and development strategies.
A majority of the countries also applied the latest geospatial and technical data on land degradation for the first time, which is strengthening national capacities to address the issue.
The target setting process also created an opportunity for countries to leverage current actions to avoid, reduce, or reverse land degradation and to mobilise finance from national and international partners to scale up LDN implementation.
The Global Mechanism (GM) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification supported countries under the Target Setting Programme to set the voluntary LDN targets. The Programme, established in 2015 by the GM and the UNCCD secretariat with the support of 18 international partners, was a response to a request from country Parties to the Convention to provide guidance to interested countries on formulating targets to achieve LDN.
The GM is still supporting many countries involved in the Target Setting Programme to access financing opportunities, such as the GEF-7 cycle, and to develop transformative projects and programmes that will help them to achieve the LDN targets and advance the achievement of other SDGs.
Details of the LDN targets, as well as country reports on the target setting process and the country commitments to achieve LDN, are now available on the UNCCD Knowledge Hub. Further reports will be added once they become available.
Photo: Þjórsárver, by Hugi Ólafsson