In 2015, we celebrated world leaders’ recognition of the fundamental and strategic role that sustainable land management must play in advancing biodiversity conservation and climate resilience.
Six years after the launch of the SDGs and more than a third of their implementation schedule, it is important to assess how far we have come: what have countries done to meet their ambitious but essential cross-cutting commitments to combat desertification? , restore degraded lands and soils and strive to achieve a land degradation neutral world? This assessment is particularly timely given that the 2021 High Level Political Forum reviewed progress towards SDG 13 on climate action and examined the integrated, indivisible and interdependent nature of the SDGs. As such, we have studied progress towards the land-based elements of reporting on SDG 13 as well as SDG 15 to “protect, restore and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halve and reverse land degradation and halt”. Loss of biodiversity.”
There are indeed countries that have advanced their commitments to land degradation and restoration under the SDGs. Some have undertaken thoughtful planning or allocated new resources. Others have increased or strengthened land restoration and sustainable land management practices in an inclusive manner. A few have introduced far-reaching reforms, established new national programs or drafted new laws to ensure long-term effectiveness. However, our review suggests that many countries have not yet prioritized land degradation neutrality in their national development agendas and most have not taken meaningful action. Even those who have acted decisively still have a long way to go before their new laws, policies and strategies are fully implemented, or their programs reach the necessary scale.
This lack of sufficient action is particularly vexing since many countries have also made similar environmental commitments in other United Nations frameworks: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the United Nations Convention on combating desertification (UNCCD). Because SDG commitments and reporting requirements overlap significantly with those of the UNFCCC and UNCCD, policymakers have mutually reinforcing incentives to advance this SDG commitment.
When environmental degradation is minimized and restoration efforts are prioritized, ecosystems can sequester and store more carbon and lessen the impact of some climate change effects. As we move forward into the United Nations Decade of Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030, we can hope to see increased alignment and collaboration among agencies fighting for a more sustainable world.
Achieving the land degradation neutrality goal of the SDGs will require strong political commitment in all countries, backed by dedicated resources, to implement concerted, deliberate and multi-sectoral efforts. Until now, countries have sometimes been distracted by competing priorities or constrained by a lack of capacity or the belief that environmental challenges are too complex to solve. Now is the time for governments, development partners, civil society practitioners, experts and researchers to come together and pool their experience, expertise, resources and institutional reach. The post-COVID-19 world we all hope for hinges on whether people – everyone, everywhere – can count on strong environmental policies to boost their food security, livelihoods, health and resilience. climatic.
The highly visible and powerful platform provided by the SDGs only works if it catalyzes action. It must provide governments with incentives to act, it must offer effective advocacy levers to civil society organizations and it must help the wide range of actors working on land degradation to remain strategically aligned. This requires clear and accessible information on what countries have done – what we should celebrate – as well as what countries could and should do to meet their land degradation and restoration commitments under the SDGs. . These reports should come from governments, civil society and community groups around the world.
The following sections provide a detailed description of the analysis we conducted to assess countries’ progress towards SDG15 on land degradation neutrality and the indicator that follows this commitment, 15.3.1.