Introduction to Land Use

Land plays an important role in global cycles of greenhouse gases (GHGs, the major GHGs are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)). Land use activities can result in emissions of such greenhouse gases to the atmosphere or removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change acknowledges that land use can contribute significantly to mitigation of climate change, including through the promotion of sustainable management of forests and oceans as well as other terrestrial, coastal and marine ecosystems. The Convention also indicates that land use will need to take measures to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change, which is particularly important for ensuring that food production is not threatened.

In its article 5 the Paris Agreement reemphasizes the importance of the existing efforts to mitigate climate change through land use activities, including those related to forests and REDD+. Parties have also included many land use activities in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) and nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Further details are included in the updated synthesis report on the aggregate effect of INDCs. First submissions of long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies by Parties also indicate that land use will be critical for achieving a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of this century.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment report finds that the “Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU)” sector is responsible for just under a quarter (~10–12 GtCO2eq/yr) of anthropogenic GHG emissions mainly from deforestation and agricultural emissions from livestock, soil and nutrient management. Anthropogenic forest degradation and biomass burning (forest fires and agricultural burning) also represent relevant contributions. Annual GHG emissions from agricultural production in 2000–2010 were estimated at 5.0–5.8 GtCO2eq/yr while annual GHG flux from land use and land-use change activities accounted for approximately 4.3–5.5 GtCO2eq/yr. Leveraging the mitigation potential in the sector is extremely important in meeting emission reduction targets.

Consequently, the Conference of the Parties (COP) and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) through their permanent subsidiary bodies, i.e. Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), and other bodies established under them undertake work on a number of matters relating to land use. These include:



Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture was established by the COP at its 23rd session. Through this decision the COP requested the SBSTA and SBI to jointly address issues related to agriculture, including through workshops and expert meetings, working with constituted bodies under the Convention and taking into consideration the vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change and approaches to addressing food security.


Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF)

Human activities related to land use influence the exchange of greenhouse gases between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere and hence have an impact on climate change. Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) emissions and removals have been addressed by the Convention and Kyoto Protocol processes.


Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+)

The COP, at its 13th session, affirmed the urgent need to take further meaningful action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (often referred to by the acronym REDD+). At its 19th session, the COP adopted the Warsaw Framework for REDD+, which provides guidance on several essential aspects of REDD+ implementation. These web pages give an overview of REDD+ under the UNFCCC.


REDD+ Web Platform

The COP encouraged all Parties, relevant organizations and stakeholders to share information on REDD+ implementation. It requested the secretariat to develop a REDD+ Web Platform where such information will be made available. Parties further decided that the REDD+ Web Platform will contain an interactive REDD+ discussion forum to enhance sharing of information, experiences and lessons learned on the use of the IPCC guidance and guidelines. The REDD+ Web Platform also contains submissions of forest reference emission levels and/or forest reference levels by developing country Parties and the Lima Information Hub for REDD+.