12 September, 2017 Global Land Outlook (GLO) launched “Energy and Land Use” working paper at the UNCCD COP 13 in Ordos, China. Prepared in partnership with the international renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), this working paper is one of a series that synthesizes knowledge about the land-energy nexus, providing data, contexts and recommendation on the interactions between energy and land. Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification serve as a normative framework for this analysis. Focali researcher Göran Berndes is one of the main authors of the publication.
The Global Land Outlook is a strategic communications platform that also produces publications focusing on development of transformative vision for land management policy, planning and practice at both global and national scales. The GLO addresses future challenges and opportunities for the management and restoration of land by focusing on food, water and energy security, amongst other areas.
Energy is the key driving force for land use. Since the begining of times, fire has been used for clearing the land and cooking as well as for lighting and heating. Today liquid and solid fuels are inherent to every economy. Although current direct land use of the energy sector is relatively low, if we compare it with agriculture, mining or urban settlements, it is projected to increase since global demand for energy is rising.
World’s surging energy needs lead to open-pit mining and development of shale oil and gas – all with high land impact. What is more, many of these unexploited energy sources are located in fragile environments, like the Artic or the Amazon; Developing extraction in such places may have irreversible effects on the environment.
At the same time, as implementation of the Paris Agreement proceeds, the renewable energy will expand and its land use area will become more significant. To what extent the overall land use balance will be more favourable than for non-renewable sources depends on the mix of renewables and their deployment. But innovative and effective use of renewable energy, like widespread roof top solar, for instance, or on-farm integration of windmills are up and coming. In this respect, development of bioenergy needs particularly careful evaluation as biomass has the largest land use footprint of all energy sources.
The “Energy and Land Use” working paper provides an overview of land use footprint of all the energy sources, both renewable and non-renewable, looking at traditional energy sources as well as at the cutting-edge technology. The publication outlines interactions between energy and land by identifying and comparing the land impact of all terrestrial energy forms. It also contains information about how to plan and scale up renewable energy initiatives with respect to water scarcity and food security and outlines pathways to land degradation neutrality.
The last chapter of the working paper pinpoints policy options that can be utilized for achieving sustainable land and energy for all. Basing on the trade-offs between land and energy, the authors offer a set of certifications and tariffs schemes for sustainable land use and describe pathways to sustainable land use management.
The working paper is available here.