Current issue: 53(4)
Under compilation: 54(1)
The paper first reviews the desertification/land degradation syndrome, the shortcomings of attempts to control it and the consequences of this failure, including to climate change and biodiversity. It then examines the experience gained by carbon and biodiversity offsets that helped adapting the offsetting principle to the context of land degradation, by emphasizing the restoration of the many already degraded lands on earth, as major component of the Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) mechanism. LDN is a new voluntary and aspirational target of a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) under the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, aimed at neutralizing the rate of lands coming under degrading use of their productivity. This by balancing the ongoing added degradation with similar rate of restoring equivalent lands whose productivity had been already degraded. If extensively implemented, LDN would stabilize the global amount of productive land by 2030. This would increase global food security and reduce poverty of land users, thus contributing to global sustainability. This review maintains that the failure of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to reduce desertification triggered the emergence of LDN as a mechanism for addressing land degradation globally, rather than just desertification in the drylands. LDN accepted as target of a Sustainable Development Goal also legitimized UNCCD to lead and oversee the aspired process of achieving land degradation neutral world. This paper reviews the development of the LDN concept expressed in scientific deliberations and political advocacy, throughout the five years from inception in 2011 at the UNCCD Secretariat, to early 2016. It notes the fast and increasing acceptance of LDN, expressed in the initiation of implementation already in April 2015 by an increasing number of countries, and in the growing interest and engagement of scientists and policy-makers. But the paper also express concern regarding potential misuse of the concept.