Land matters for climate. Its rehabilitation and sustainable management is critical to closing the emissions gap and staying on target.
Restoring the soils of degraded ecosystems has the potential to store up to 3 billion tons of carbon annually.
Land and Climate Change
The land use sector represents almost 25% of total global emissions. These emissions can be reduced however. Improved land use and management, such as low emissions agriculture, agro-forestry and ecosystem conservation and restoration could, under certain circumstances, close the remaining emissions gap by up to 25%.
These climate-smart land management practices nearly always come with adaptation co-benefits. Their more efficient use of resources and inputs ensure greater food and water security, and build community resilience while, at the same time, sequestering carbon.
Priorities for Action
- Urgent Challenge: The emissions gap is likely to remain significant and threatening, requiring actions above and beyond those currently being pledged.
- Immediate Action: Policies and incentives that promote sustainable land management, including carbon sequestration through rehabilitation and restoration, may well be the missing piece of the climate puzzle that helps to further reduce the emissions gap in a demonstrable and cost-effective manner.
- Setting Priorities: The transition to "climate smart" land management practices, including for example low-emissions agriculture, agroforestry and the restoration of high carbon-value ecosystems, such as forests and peatlands, will require sectoral coordination and investments in integrated land use planning.
- Multiple Benefits: Adopting and scaling up more sustainable management practices in the land use sector not holds significant mitigation potential but often provides short-term returns in terms of land productivity and food security while, at the same time, helping to ensure the long-term resilience and adaptive capacity of vulnerable communities.
- Measuring Progress: An evidence-based framework for accounting for carbon debits and credits will be absolutely essential for measuring progress. Future carbon accounting frameworks will need to cover all land uses and land use changes in order to fully recognize the land use sector’s mitigation contribution.
- New Paradigm: Under one scenario to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (Sustainable Development Goal target 15.3), additional commitments in the land use sector, namely to restore and rehabilitate 12 million hectares of degraded land per year could help close the emissions gap by up to 25% in the year 2030.