The heat on land: Promoting multifunctional land-use systems – creating synergies between UNFCCC and the Sustainable Development Goals

Photo: Event at COP19 - Warsaw, Poland. Photo: J.L.Urrea (CCAFS) (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The heat on land: Promoting multifunctional land-use systems – creating synergies between UNFCCC and the Sustainable Development Goals

A new project from the Swedish Energy Agency (1,4 million kr) has landed at GMV - Centre for Environment and Sustainability. Focali members are leading and participating in the project that will start in the fall of 2016.

Researchers involved in the project are Madelene Ostwald GMV, Göran Berndes and Vilhelm Verendel at Chalmers University of Technology, Björn-Ola Linnér at Linköping University, Arild Angelsen at Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Gerd Saprovek University of Sao Paulo and N.H. Ravindranath at Indian Institute of Science.

Contact Madelene Ostwald for more information about the project. 

Information about the project:

The researchers in the project will study three processes or challenges related to land use effects on climate change, sustainable development and natural resource management; (1) nations’ climate contribution through the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), (2) the sustainability goals (SDG) and (3) the lack of productive land. These three challenges require a transformative change in the land-use systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions/increase carbon sink, make land use sustainable and increase its productivity. Climate policy can support such shifts by promoting multifunctional land-use systems. Here we assess 161 INDCs for indicators of multifunctional land-use systems and match them with targets of relevant SDGs for synergies and trade-offs between goals. Brazil and India’s climate- and land-related programmes provide us with lessons learned for policy implementation, which will be examined using the UNFCCC framework. Results will feed in to the process of national climate and land-use plans and the future climate policy design.

The basis of this project is to study to what extent climate change and its impacts caused by land use (agriculture, forestry and other land use - AFOLU- 24% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (IPCC, 2014, Ch11) is reflected in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by parties to the UNFCCC in 2015. Moreover, the INDCs can be compared to and complemented by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) that suggest land-use systems should be sustainable and preferably not conflict with other goals, such as improved food security, ensured energy and sustained ecosystems. Achievement of the broad goals of the Paris Agreement of stabilizing warming well below 2°C compared to preindustrial level, aspiring to not exceed 1.5 °C, would require a critical role for land-based mitigation options. The long-term goal as stated in Article 4.1 is to balance GHG sources and sinks in the second half of this century. To realistically assess the potentials for sinks to contribute to the Paris Agreement we need to study these challenges in a context of increasing pressure on land causing land (Haberl, 2014), driven by a number of factors; higher demand for land-based outputs, such as food, fiber, fuel, fodder, urbanization, infrastructure, conservation areas, and possible reduction in arable land due to climate change.

These three processes or challenges combined call for a transformative change in land-use systems to increase output while mitigating land-use based GHG emissions and also reversing the trends where an increasing share of the world ecosystem services are being degraded or used unsustainably. Climate policy can support such a land-use shifts. One promising path is to promote multifunctional land-use systems to increase the adaptive capacity and resilience and enhance output of products and services. This project will, firstly assess the 161 INDCs and select those countries where multifunctional land-use systems for mitigation and adaptation strategies are included. Secondly, they will be matched with the targets set up in the four relevant SDGs (2, 7, 13, 15) to scrutinize synergies and trade-offs between goals. Brazil and India are prime cases with their Federal Programme for Low Carbon Agricultural (ABC) programme and the National Mission for a Green India. These provide lessons learned for policy implementation of multifunctional land-use systems as a mean to reduce climate change impact and improve output from land use.

With Brazil and India as show-case examples, we will apply policy lessons to the measures suggested within the existing or future UNFCCC framework to promote sustainable multifunctional land use. This could feed in to the process of national climate and land-use plans and be an input to the future design of climate policy mechanisms.



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