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Global Land Outlook 2 Report

Global Land Outlook 2 Report

Why in news: Recently, the 2nd edition of Global Land Outlook (GLO) has been released by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

Five key takeaways from the UN’s milestone Global Land Outlook 2 Report:

  1. Humans have already transformed more than 70% of the Earth’s land area.
    • Humans have already degraded nearly 40% and altered 70% of the Earth’s land from its natural state. This has caused unparalleled environmental degradation and contributed significantly to global warming.
    • At least 20% of the global land surface is now degraded – an area the size of the African continent. However, other assessments put the proportion of land degraded at between 20 and 40%.
    • Degradation is “particularly acute” in dryland regions, which are today home to one in three people. Drylands is a collective term for water-scarce parts of the world, including arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. The UNCCD defines desertification as land degradation in these areas.
    • Breach of planetary boundaries: The report says that of the nine “planetary boundaries” – limits on how humans can safely use Earth’s resources – four have already been exceeded: climate change, biodiversity loss, land use change and bio-geochemical cycles. These breaches are directly linked to human-induced desertification, land degradation and drought.
    • On land-use change, the report says that 5-10 million hectares (mha) of forest were razed every year between 2000 and 2015, leading to a total global loss of 125mha.

  1. Food systems are responsible for 80% of deforestation, 29% of greenhouse gas emissions and are the single largest cause of biodiversity loss on land.
    • At least 40% of the Earth’s land surface is dedicated to agriculture, and more than half of these lands are degraded.
    • Current impacts of food production on nature:

    • Agriculture led deforestation around the world is largely driven by – lack of sufficient regulations, short-sighted national development priorities, lax enforcement of existing regulations and ultimately, consumer demand in developed countries.
    • In addition, land degradation by food systems is not limited to deforestation. Agricultural expansion and climate change pose the “greatest threats” to grasslands, which make up more than two-thirds of the land being converted to cropland in wet regions of the planet.
    • Suggestions by the report for transforming food systems:

3. Protecting and restoring ecosystems could aid to achieve global warming goals.

  • Protecting and restoring land resources reduces emissions and sequesters carbon, providing more than one-third of the cost-effective, land-based climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming.
  • In addition to its mitigation potential, land-based climate solutions enhance  adaptation through:
    • Effective management and expansion of networks of conserved and protected areas.
    • Sustainable land and water management practices in working rural landscapes.
    • Ecological restoration or rewilding of biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems.

  • While terrestrial and oceanic sinks have removed over half of the carbon emissions generated from human activities, the rate of sequestration is now declining. If land degradation continues unabated, this could potentially trigger a reversal from land being a net sink to being a net source.
  • Land restoration offers numerous pathways to reduce emissions, sequester carbon, and enhance human and environmental resilience to cope with the expected impacts of climate change.

  • Place-based restoration approaches: The report provided for several place-based restoration approaches along with actions and their benefits.

  1. Land degradation threatens marginalized communities the most – but these groups have much to contribute to ecosystem restoration and protection.
    • More than 3 billion people are already living with the impacts of desertification, land degradation and drought. These are mostly poor rural communities, small-scale farmers, women, youth, Indigenous peoples and other at-risk groups.
    • Indigenous peoples represent around 6% of the global population, but they have tenure rights over about one-quarter of the Earth’s surface, and 40% of intact ecosystems and protected areas.
      • However, Indigenous peoples have also been frequently forced from their lands and subjected to discrimination, which often severely curtailed their fundamental rights and freedoms.
    • Land back movement: The report discussed the land back movement as a growing push for indigenous communities to reclaim their ancestral lands. It states – “It offers many opportunities for the restoration of traditional, regenerative land and water management practices, which could be applied throughout large parks, public lands, and protected areas. The movement is aligned with global campaigns to protect biodiversity, expand Indigenous management of protected areas and restore natural capital to mitigate and adapt to climate change.”

    • Rights based approaches to land restoration: As proven land stewards, indigenous peoples and local communities will be vital to the success of the global land restoration agenda, but only if their rights are recognized and they are involved in the management of protected areas. Indigenous and local knowledge, customary use, and management practices must be given equal footing alongside modern scientific approaches.

    • Gender-responsive land restoration: The gender-responsive land restoration is an obvious pathway to reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. It ensures that women and men have an equal voice and influence in land use and management decisions and their outcomes.

    • Synthesis of different forms of capital: Land restoration is efficient, effective, and equitable when people are front and center. Restoration projects can have even greater impacts when they are employed in tandem with poverty alleviation, disaster risk reduction, healthcare and rural development strategies. Thus, greater investments in human and social capital will help maximize the impact of financial capital when undertaking land restoration activities.

  1. The world faces a stark choice between protecting and restoring land and ‘business as usual’



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