UNCCD Finalizes LDN Scientific Conceptual Framework
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The Science-Policy Interface (SPI) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has finalized a conceptual framework to guide actions on land degradation neutrality (LDN).

The report, ‘Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality,’ presents a framework to help create a scientific foundation to guide LDN implementation and monitoring, and serve as a common point of reference for LDN discourse and initiatives.

10 February 2017: The Science-Policy Interface (SPI) of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has finalized a conceptual framework to guide awareness raising, implementation and monitoring of land degradation neutrality (LDN). Titled ‘Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality,’ the framework will assist countries in implementing LDN strategies.

The UNCCD defines LDN as “a state whereby the amount and quality of land resources necessary to support ecosystem functions and services and enhance food security remain stable or increase within specified temporal and spatial scales and ecosystems.” LDN is target 15.3 under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, which addresses Life on Land. The target calls for all countries to, “By 2030, combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and strive to achieve a land degradation-neutral world.” By December 2016, 103 countries had embarked on national processes to set their LDN targets, with support from the UNCCD’s Global Mechanism (GM) and diverse partners.

In addition to explaining the underlying processes and principles, the SPI expects that having an agreed scientific conceptual framework for LDN will help create a scientific foundation to guide LDN implementation and monitoring, and serve as a common point of reference for the emerging LDN discourse and various LDN initiatives.

The SPI report is structured around five sections, or modules. The first two modules describe the intended outcomes of LDN (vision) and the frame of reference against which achievement is measured (baseline). The third module presents the mechanism for neutrality (counterbalancing anticipated negative changes with actions planned to deliver gains and how to track the cumulative effect of land use decisions). The final sections highlight strategies for achieving neutrality (preparing for and pursuing LDN), and monitoring neutrality (evaluating progress and achievement of LDN).

In order to help with visualizing the various components of the framework and their interlinkages, the report includes a diagrammatic presentation of the LDN concept. At the top of the diagram is the LDN target or vision, which emphasizes the link between human prosperity and the stock of natural resources that provides flows of valuable goods and services (natural capital of land). At the center of the diagram is a balance scale that illustrates the mechanism for achieving neutrality. The scale depicts how future land degradation (losses) is counterbalanced through planned positive actions elsewhere (gains), within the same land or ecosystem type.

The fulcrum of the scale depicts a hierarchy of responses, with “avoiding degradation” having the highest priority, followed by reducing degradation and finally reversing past degradation. An arrow at the bottom of the diagram is used to show that neutrality needs to be maintained over time through implementing land-use planning that “anticipates losses and plans gains.”

By framing the environmental challenge of land degradation in terms of “neutrality,” the LDN framework adds a dimension not previously tackled in land degradation management policy.

The report notes that by framing the environmental challenge of land degradation in terms of “neutrality,” the LDN framework adds a dimension not previously tackled in land degradation management policy. The conceptual framework is therefore intended to provide decision-makers with the means to balance potential gains and losses in terms of “intent” (capturing the expected outcomes of land use and management decisions in such a way that favors neutrality) and “results” (evaluating the impact of those decisions). Furthermore, in light of the continuing impact of global environmental change on land-based natural capital, the authors emphasize the importance of embedding adaptive management throughout the planning, implementation, monitoring and interpretation of LDN. [UNCCD Press Release] [Scientific Conceptual Framework for Land Degradation Neutrality] [SDG Knowledge Hub Stories on LDN]


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