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Zero Net Land Degradation: A New Sustainable Development Goal for Rio+ 20

Abstract

This report suggests that a new and explicit goal of sustainable development to be agreed as a result of Rio+20 should be the reduction of the rate of land degradation to achieve land degradation neutrality, which we refer to as “Zero Net Land Degradation” or ZNLD. Such a goal is urgently required in order to save the world‟s lands from further degradation processes and thus to meet the nutritional, economic, social and cultural needs of current and future generations, as well as to complement global initiatives to address climate change and biological diversity losses The objective of this report is to explain and justify the need for setting a ZNLD target, and to suggest ways in which it can be achieved. To this end, a tentative roadmap is included as part of the recommendations of the report.

The principal driver of human-caused land degradation and desertification is unsustainable exploitation of land productivity by pastoral, farming and agro-pastoral land uses. By restoring already degraded land, the net rate of loss of productive land can be reduced to zero. If the annual rate of restoration over time equals the annual rate of land becoming degraded, zero net land degradation will be achieved. The fundamental aim of ZNLD is thus that the area of global productive land will remain stable with enhanced and sustained production. Promoting the ZNLD target would help to secure the currently available productive land for the use of present and future generations.

Land degradation and its subset of desertification are defined in the box below. In this report they are collectively referred to as “LDD”. They constitute a persistent decline in the provision of all services that land would otherwise provide, including food provision. Around 20% of global land area is presumably already degraded (i.e. LDD-affected), as expressed by a persistent reduction of land productivity as well as in the provision of other land ecosystem services .

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