Landscapes are multifunctional, with land and natural resources supporting diverse uses and value in myriad ways by different people. Yet growing demands – for energy, land, water and natural resources – are rapidly outpacing the capacity of landscapes to meet competing needs. This is creating conflict over land allocations and rights and resulting in rapid ecosystem degradation, poverty and food insecurity, and water crises. Global agriculture is expected to produce enough food to feed over 9 billion people by 2050 and with agricultural lands currently occupying 40–50 percent of the world’s land surface and projected to expand by 10 per cent by 2050, the challenge of maintaining food production whilst supporting healthy, functioning ecosystems that protect biodiversity, provide essential goods and services for people and support multiple land uses is intensifying.
Numerous sustainability goals seek to maintain these multiple values, with targets and timeframes set at global, regional, national and sub-national level. Bringing an end to deforestation, mitigating climate change, halting biodiversity loss, and combating land degradation are among the goals set through the ambitious agendas of the Paris climate agreement, Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the New York Declaration on Forests (NYDF), the Bonn Challenge, and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
Global goals are driving regional targets such as the African Union’s mandate to bring 100 million hectares of degraded land into restoration by 2030, whilst the European Commission is exploring policy options for an EU-wide No Net Loss (NNL) Initiative for biodiversity. They are also being translated into national targets and mainstreamed into policy and legislation to provide clearer, more enforceable and measurable objectives for directing action on the ground. For example, over 115 countries have committed to setting Land Degradation Neutrality targets.