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degraded lands

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There are 2 billion hectares of degraded land around the globe. Restoring it could not only put food on the table, it could create hundreds of thousands of jobs.

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Andrew Steer, CEO of WRI, and Monique Barbut of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification discuss the urgent need for a global commitment to restoring degraded land and how it may remedy deforestation, desertification and food scarcity.

The expected rise in world population to 9 billion by 2050, and the need for a 70 percent increase in food production from 2006 levels, makes the need for a solution particularly urgent. This challenge will be even more difficult in the face of a changing climate.

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This post originally appeared in the Jakarta Post.

Palm oil is on a lot of people’s minds. In Indonesia, the industry is booming, with $19.7 billion of crude palm oil exports in 2011. But expanding oil palm plantations have taken their toll on remaining forests and other natural habitats in tropical regions and led to conflict over land with local people.

The world’s top scientists are also raising concerns. According to a recent study in Nature Climate Change, from 1990 to 2010, 90 percent of lands converted to oil palm plantations in Kalimantan were forested.

There need not, however, be a trade-off between palm oil, forests, and communities. It is possible to grow more crops--including oil palm--while keeping forests and cutting rural poverty.

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Can the world have its palm oil and forests, too? This is an issue that my colleague and I discussed a while back. I am pleased to say that we recently moved a step toward ensuring that the answer is “yes.”

At the 10th Annual Meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), WRI launched two new online mapping applications designed to help the palm oil industry grow while avoiding deforestation. These free tools enable palm oil producers, buyers, investors, and government agencies to easily identify and evaluate locations in Indonesia where they can develop plantations on already-degraded land rather than on currently forested areas. By siting oil palm plantations on degraded or “low-carbon” lands, developers can avoid the need to clear remaining natural forests to meet the growing global demand for palm oil.

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Nature provides the conditions for a healthy, secure, and fulfilling existence. Among the many benefits people receive from nature are fresh water, food, protection from floods, and spiritual enrichment.

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The PAGE reports analyze quantitative and qualitative information and develops indicators of the condition of the world's freshwater, coastal, forests, grassland and agroecosystems.

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In 1998 the leaders of the Group of Eight (Japan, France, the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada and Russia) committed to actions that would help protect the world's forests.

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In recent years, international attention has increasingly focused on the rapid conversion and degradation of the world's tropical forests.

Yet half of the remaining large tracts of natural forest are found in northern (or boreal) regions.

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Central Africa's forests have a long history of human use. Large-scale commercial logging, however, is a recent phenomenon.

This report addresses the following questions:

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