The global economy will lose a whopping $23 trillion by 2050 through land degradation, a review by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) warns. To take urgent action now and halt these alarming trends would cost $4.6 trillion – only a fraction of the predicted losses.
The outcomes of the review have been assembled into comprehensive and easy-to-use Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) Country Profiles, of which 21 are already available online. The LDN Country Profiles reveal that average losses for these 21 countries are equivalent to 9% of GDP. This figure is even higher for some of the planet’s worst affected countries, such as the Central African Republic, where the total losses are estimated at a staggering 40 percent. Asia and Africa bear the highest costs, estimated at $84 billion and $65 billion per year respectively.
“Healthy land is the primary asset that supports livelihoods around the globe – from food to jobs and decent incomes. Today, we face a crisis of unseen proportions: 1.5 billion people – mainly in the world’s most impoverished countries – are trapped on degrading agricultural land. This reality is fuelling extreme poverty, particularly in areas such as the Sahel and South Asia, where extreme and erratic weather events are on the rise due to the impacts of climate change,” says Juan Carlos Mendoza, Managing Director of the UNCCD Global Mechanism.
The LDN Country Profiles aim to help guide policy decisions on land use management. The profiles are based largely on the analytical work undertaken by the Centre for Development Research of the University of Bonn, the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative and the International Food Policy Research Institute.
Globally, 169 countries are affected by land degradation and/or drought. Of these, 116 countries are committed to achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) under the UNCCD LDN Target-Setting Programme that supports countries in reaching target 15.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Target 15.3, on Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN), encourages countries to halt land degradation in order to ensure the quantity of productive land remains stable. The target is now also recognized as vital for accelerating other SDGs, such as: Goal 1 (No poverty), Goal 2 (Zero hunger), Goal 5 (Promote gender equality), Goal 6 (Clean water and sanitation), Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth), and Goal 13 (Climate action).
The 21 countries whose profiles were released on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 are also engaged in the LDN target setting process, formulating targets and associated measures to avoid, reduce and reverse land degradation. For example, the Central African Republic has committed to restoring more than one million hectares of degraded land – equal to 15 percent of its territory – which will limit its potential losses and economic burden nationwide.
“The LDN Country Profiles provide policy-makers with easily accessible and scientifically sound information that can help estimate the value of their investments in land restoration and make informed choices on the economic returns they can expect from taking assertive action now. Moreover, the profiles illustrate the equivalent monetary value of land degradation and its impact on the international community, while providing strong incentives for cooperation among countries,” Mendoza adds.
A broader picture of the economic costs of failing to act decisively and restore available land resources will emerge as additional country profiles are released.