Global land outlook working paper: energy and land use

Sep 2017

This Global Land Outlook working paper is one of a series that aims to synthesize and compile knowledge, focus on the land-energy nexus (i.e., taking into account food and water) and provide data, contexts, and recommendations on the interaction between energy and land. The normative framework for analysis will be the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Since the mandate of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is to combat global desertification and land degradation, the land “footprint” of energy supply and use, referred to in SDG 15, is of particular interest. Currently, approximately 90 percent of global energy demand is met from non-renewable energy (mainly fossil), which leaves its footprint on land through resource extraction (e.g., coal mining), conversion (e.g., refineries, power plants) and their respective infrastructure (e.g., pipelines, fuel storage, transmission lines). Similarly, the development of renewable energy, such as biomass, geothermal, hydro, solar and wind, has land consequences, although these differ in scope and form.
This paper identifies and compares the land impact of all terrestrial energy forms. It also focuses on the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the use and supply of energy, as well as the maintenance and enhancement of terrestrial carbon sinks that are essential to mitigating climate change, as set forth in SDG 13 and the Paris Agreement of 12 December 2015. Meeting these goals will require a rapid scale up of low-carbon, sustainable energy sources and their efficient distribution. Many of these activities have significant implications for land use, management and planning.
1 This report applies the term “land” to represent its area (spatial) dimension, while functional aspects of land, such as “soil”, are mentioned explicitly.
Energy and land use are further linked to issues addressed by other SDGs, such as those that relate to biodiversity, employment, rural development, soil degradation and water, among others. These linkages are briefly discussed in this publication.


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