Flagship GEO initiative will accelerate land restoration through better information
03 Nov 2022

Flagship GEO initiative will accelerate land restoration through better information

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The 114 member governments and 144 participating organisations of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) today launched GEO Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) as a flagship initiative, seeking to accelerate land restoration for global environmental sustainability.

Degradation and loss of habitat threatens all life on Earth, including the well-being of 3.2 billion people, and puts roughly half the world’s annual economic output - $US 44 trillion – at risk. Earth Observation (EO) analysis shows that most ice-free terrestrial ecosystems have been transformed from their natural state for human use, and at least 20% of that area is no longer productive.

The Global Land Outlook second edition (GLO2), published recently by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), shows that each dollar invested in restoring degraded land returns between $US7 and $US30 in benefit. The GEO LDN Flagship provides trusted tools and information to monitor land condition across all scales and landscapes, so countries can improve their land management. The Flagship supports the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 15.3 on land degradation, which targets the restoration of nearly one billion hectares of land by 2030. Achieving this target requires a holistic approach, ensuring that nature is protected, agricultural lands are sustainably used, and degraded land is ecologically restored.

GEO Secretariat Director, Yana Gevorgyan said: “Globally coordinated Earth observations can provide the trusted information to protect nature, restore degraded land and manage agricultural land sustainably. Supported by a EUR 6.2 million contribution from the Government of Germany, we are launching the GEO LDN Flagship in response to a critical need for better information, better tools, and skilled practitioners to accelerate achievement of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”

GLO2 projects degradation of 16 million square km – an area the size of South America – through to 2050 if current trends continue. LDN encourages the optimization of all land uses across the landscape, so that the competing demands for land resources including food, feed, fibre, clean water, clean energy, the carbon sequestration, and the protection of nature, can all be achieved.

Dr. Barron Joseph Orr, Lead Scientist of the UNCCD, said: “Addressing the problem through the right mix of conservation, sustainable use and restoration measures makes economic sense. But it is a daunting challenge to provide suitable data and information across the extraordinary variety of landscapes and land uses across the globe.”

The GEO LDN Flagship will be hosted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, on behalf of the German Government. Ms. Antje Hecheltjen, Coordinator of the Flagship Secretariat explained: “Delivering for, and co-developing with governments and local communities drives the work programme of the GEO LDN Flagship. Our key challenge is to help countries to capitalise on advances in EO by making tools and datasets open source and interoperable, supporting their use for LDN, and developing a curriculum of study to build expertise and capacity in LDN around the world.”

The announcement was made during GEO’s 18th Plenary, currently being held in Accra, Ghana.