Challenge of meeting UN SDGs lands squarely on land system science, say opening plenary keynote speakers

Photo by Janusz Maniak on Unsplash
Apr 2019

A series of live coverage updates from Global Land Programme’s 2019 Open Science Meeting in Bern, Switzerland.

April 24, 12 noon CET

BERN, Switzerland – Land use will be central to almost every aspect of achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On this note, more than 650 land systems scientists from some 68 countries met in Bern on April 24 to discuss issues related to the use of land throughout the world at the Global Land Programme’s  (GLP) 4th Open Science Meeting.

Early speakers expressed optimism that science can identify and solve many problems. But there is far from universal support or financing from governments across the globe.

The keynote speakers argued that land use is at the heart of all challenges facing the world when it comes to the environment. It is, if you like, at the centre of the Venn diagram – impacting biodiversity, poverty, deforestation, food security and climate change.

“Land use is at the core, at the heart of many sustainability issues,” GLP Fellow Karlheinz Erb said in a keynote address.

But there is also something of a vicious circle, Erb said.  The climate change that unsustainable land use has helped engender is now turning around and adding to the challenges faced by those working to develop sustainably.

University of Nebraska agronomist Patricio Grassini spelled out the human challenge of feeding a growing population from a finite area.

“Are yield rates sufficient to meet food needs [in the future]? The answer is no,” he said. Land will have to be adapted to meet such needs, pressuring the environment. “We need to rely more and more on cropland area.”

How much pressure? Grassini said the latest projections suggest that world’s population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050, with most of the growth in poorer countries.

That would be a 30 percent increase since 2015.


Check back often over the next few days for our ongoing coverage of the Global Land Programme’s 2019 Open Science Meeting. You can view the plenary keynotes on the free online livestream from the event, and follow minute-by-minute coverage on Twitter at @GlobalLandP or use the hashtag #GLPOSM to follow attendees' posts.