Legal & Scientific Integrity in Advancing a 'Land Degradation Neutral World'

54 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2014 Last revised: 2 Apr 2015

See all articles by Shelley Welton

Shelley Welton

University of South Carolina - Law Library

Michela Biasutti

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute

Michael Gerrard

Columbia University - Law School

Date Written: October 1, 2014

Abstract

It is no secret that the fight against desertification isn't going well. In the two decades since the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) came into force, desertification has worsened considerably. Many within the desertification community and beyond are calling for a fresh approach to the problem: the establishment of a global goal to achieve a "land-degradation neutral world." However, the call for land degradation neutrality has not been universally celebrated, particularly given the questionable track record of past "no net loss" policies. This article looks at ways to advance global land degradation neutrality into a concept — and, eventually, a program — that has legal and scientific integrity, such that it delivers tangible gains. We do so by drawing on lessons learned from two ongoing, land-centered policy attempts similarly framed around goals of neutrality: the "no net loss" wetlands policy embraced by the United States' Wetlands Mitigation Banking (WMB) program, as representative of a broad class of "biodiversity offset" programs emerging around the world; and Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), an international program aimed at preserving, enhancing, and restoring forests as carbon "sinks." Three key issues emerge for further consideration on the path to a "land-degradation neutral world": (1) how to define and measure the problem — "land degradation" — in scientifically and legally meaningful ways; (2) how to successfully pursue "neutrality" as an organizing principle; and (3) how to balance the local and the global, and the public and the private, in the administration of such a program.

Keywords: desertification, land degradation, 'no net loss', REDD

Suggested Citation

Welton, Shelley and Biasutti, Michela and Gerrard, Michael, Legal & Scientific Integrity in Advancing a 'Land Degradation Neutral World' (October 1, 2014). Columbia Journal of Environmental Law Forthcoming; Columbia Law and Economics Research Paper No. 515; Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-438. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2483232 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2483232

Shelley Welton (Contact Author)

University of South Carolina - Law Library ( email )

1525 Senate Street
Columbia, SC 29208
United States
803.777.5662 (Phone)

Michela Biasutti

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute ( email )

314 Low Library
535 West 116th Street, MC 4327
New York, NY 10027
United States

Michael Gerrard

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

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