The Global Land Squeeze

As countries pledge ambitious climate and conservation goals that depend on land use, they are realizing there may not be enough usable land to meet all targets.

Current Commitments Exceed Available Land

Countries have committed to setting aside 120 million square kilometers of land for carbon removal efforts to reach net-zero emissions. Separately, they have pledged to conserve 30% of land and oceans, or about 23 million square kilometers of land, through the 2030 biodiversity framework known as “30×30.” However, total usable ice-free land is only around 130 million square kilometers, much of which is already used for food production and settlements.

Carbon Removal vs. Biodiversity Protection

Some carbon removal approaches, like ecosystem restoration, can benefit biodiversity. However, large-scale carbon removal requires land use changes that could undermine protected areas and habitat conservation needed to stem biodiversity losses.

Since conservation is the primary way to protect biodiversity, some argue emphasis should be placed on reducing emissions first, minimizing the need for carbon removal. Protected areas and carbon removal projects may be able to occur on the same parcels of land, but competition for usable land is still excessively high.

Recommendations for Aligning Approaches

To meet commitments, countries will likely need to focus climate mitigation and biodiversity conservation efforts on land:

  • That provides maximal carbon removal through natural ecosystem replenishment
  • With high biodiversity value worth protecting through preservation
  • That allows for shared land use for carbon and biodiversity projects



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