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Thursday, 22 September 2011

Launch of the Economics of Land Degradation initiative

In New York, European Development Commissioner Piebalgs participated in the launch of the Economics of Land Degradation (ELD) initiative. This event is taking place in the context of an UN-sponsored meeting to address land degradation and desertification. The ELD initiative will be a comprehensive assessment of land degradation that looks both at the costs of failing to prevent further land degradation and at the economic benefits of addressing it through sustainable land management policies.

In his speech Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: "Land degradation is a serious global issue, which has a significant impact on food security, climate change and biodiversity loss. I hope the study will find a broad coalition of partners to give it the further impetus it requires and the impact that the issues deserve."

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "We tend to take soil for granted. But soil is a non-renewable resource so could actually run out or become impoverished if we do not take proper care of it. We are all affected by land degradation, directly or indirectly, but have little idea of the actual costs, so this is a very welcome initiative."

Land degradation is a growing problem around the world. The proportion of land subject to desertification and land degradation is increasing year by year. There are a number of pressures driving this trend, including unsustainable land use as a result of demographic changes, unsustainable consumption and production patterns and growing pressure on water sources, exacerbated by climatic changes and drought.

The problem does not just affect arid zones. Within the EU, some 12 Member States have declared themselves affected by desertification and almost half of European soils are now poor in organic matter.

In order to address the problems there is a need for more coherent policies worldwide and for measures in affected countries to address the issue at an early stage. The EU sees the ELD initiative as a means of developing a clearer understanding of the full costs of land degradation and is therefore actively involved. The global study should raise awareness of this issue and help policy-makers in affected countries to implement effective strategies to address the problem. It will also help the private sector to set out clearly incentives for investment in sustainable land management policies. The aim is to build on our experience with similar reports on the costs of climate change and the economic value of biodiversity.

Source: European Commission