A major new report from the UN has revealed that 40% of the world’s land is degraded and warned that, without major restoration and preservation efforts, there will be grave outcomes for society, nature and climate.

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by Sarah George 28th April 2022

Poor land management and natural resource exploitation threatens half of global GDP, UN warns

Globally, human activity has altered the way that 70% of land is used, according to the UN

Published on Wednesday (27 April), the UN’s second Global Land Outlook assesses land-use trends across the world, tracks land degradation and outlines future scenarios in which opportunities to protect and restore land are taken. Importantly, it emphasizes how land degradation contributes to food insecurity, mass migration, economic losses, biodiversity loss and the global temperature increase.

The headline finding is that around 40% of land globally is already degraded. Degradation to date has largely been driven by sectors linked to deforestation, such as forestry and intensive agriculture. Agriculture alone now occupies 40% of global land. This has already resulted in negative impacts for half of the global population, predominantly in the Global South.

Unless action is taken to protect and restore land at scale, the report warns, half of global GDP – $44trn – will be at risk by 2050. In a business-as-usual scenario, at least 12% of the world’s agricultural and pasture land will enter a potentially irreversible decline in productivity, risking food security and livelihoods. This further degradation will have knock-on impacts with regard to biodiversity loss and the climate crisis. On the latter, an additional 69 billion tonnes of CO2e will be generated by land-use by 2050 in this scenario.

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