MIL-OSI Asia-Pacific: IGES Report Discusses Pathways to Reverse “Unsustainable Land Transformations” in Asia Pacific

By   /  May 24, 2019  /  Comments Off on MIL-OSI Asia-Pacific: IGES Report Discusses Pathways to Reverse “Unsustainable Land Transformations” in Asia Pacific

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Source: Small Island Developing States

May 2019: It is estimated that at least two billion hectares of land in the Asia-Pacific region are degraded, while cities and adjacent rural areas are grappling with the impacts of pollution and other consequences of agricultural expansion and unplanned urban sprawl. How to deal with some of the difficult trade-offs involved in achieving a sustainable future for people and planet is the subject of the report titled, ‘Asia-Pacific Landscape Transformations: Solutions for Sustainability,’ published by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).

A central theme explored in the report is the unprecedented pace and scale of land-use changes in the region, which is not only impacting the natural environment, but reshaping landscapes, economy and societies. Drawing on in-depth case studies from four countries – Papua New Guinea (PNG), Indonesia and the Philippines – the report highlights the rapid pace at which biodiversity-rich forests and other natural ecosystems are being converted to monoculture plantations, intensive agriculture and urban settlements. Among consequences for biodiversity, the report warns that almost 25% of the region’s endemic species are at risk, and threats are growing. It notes that four-fifths of rivers are polluted, and the region is quickly losing its major terrestrial sinks and stores of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The report further notes that unsustainable land use is driving climate change while simultaneously increasing the region’s vulnerability by decreasing options for adaptation. The authors stress that policymakers and other land managers “are unable to cope” with the scale, speed and consequences of the land-use changes taking place, and call for a greater sense of urgency in addressing these impacts.

The SDGs can be used as an overarching framework to ensure coherence across all land-relevant international agreements.

The publication argues that a vision of sustainable landscapes is central to building new types of governance arrangements that can guide policymaking and administration towards more effective management of interdependent ecosystems. Discussing examples of such integrative governance frameworks, one chapter highlights possible applications of four approaches: the landscape approach; REDD+; integrated water resource management (IWRM); and the water-energy-food nexus approach. Another chapter discusses how the SDGs offer a holistic framework to address unsustainable land transformations. It explores how decision makers can use an “SDG lens” to identify and assess potential trade-offs and synergies associated with alternative land uses and management practices. For example, conversion of a natural forest to agriculture might contribute to food security under SDG 2 (zero hunger) but increase exposure and sensitivity to extreme weather events and reduce biodiversity, compromising the achievement of SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 15 (life on land).

The authors also suggest that the SDGs can be used as an overarching framework to ensure coherence across all land-relevant international agreements, including the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the New Urban Agenda (NUA) and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). At the national level, the report highlights how the SDGs could complement tools such as environmental impact assessments (EIAs) or regulatory impact assessments to ensure that land-use policies are aligned towards sustainability.

The publication concludes with a number of recommendations for transforming degraded land into “sustainable, multi-functional landscapes.” It notes the need for: putting in place new governance structures that are adaptive, inclusive, multilevel and “multi-scalar”; implementing fundamental economic reforms – such as better market access and higher prices for sustainable agricultural products – to provide positive signals for land managers; identifying and addressing capacity needs for implementing integrative approaches, including mechanisms for providing incentives for coordination; and enhancing synergies between urban and rural landscapes through, inter alia, integrating city and regional plans, and promoting urban and peri-urban agriculture and farmers’ markets. [Publication: Asia-Pacific Landscape Transformations: Solutions for Sustainability] [Publication Abstract]

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