Growing demands for farming and climate action will soon outstrip land availability, posing risks to international and environmental stability, global policy think tank Chatham House has warned.
The fight for productive and ecologically significant land, along with its resources and services, will only grow fiercer in the coming decades, the UK-based Chatham House said in the report.
In one scenario, the world could face an agricultural land deficit – the gap between the amount of farmland needed and that available – of 573 million hectares, almost twice the size of India’s land area, the report said.
Land use decisions, now more than ever linked to major environmental impacts and the escalating climate crisis, are transforming due to global warming and extreme weather, leading to widespread land degradation.
The proposed energy and carbon-capture solutions for achieving net zero, requiring extensive land, will likely conflict with other uses such as farming, which is already inefficient in land usage the report said.
The current land shortage, marked by unrelenting resource consumption, stagnant land productivity, and increasing biodiversity loss, will only intensify in the future, said the report, which examines the causes of land scarcity, forecasts its potential impact up to 2050, and proposes ways to encourage sustainable land use and cooperative stewardship.
International cooperation is crucial to address this challenge, yet it’s hindered by individual countries’ political motives and resource security goals. There’s a risk that governments and corporations might aggressively seek to control or acquire land resources for their own interests, responding to growing land pressures, the report warned.
The report warned that it is the first time since the “dawn of globalization” that land use is so closely entwined with geopolitics. “Land use could become a major factor in reshaping international relations, while equally being more susceptible to foreign policy agendas,” it said.
The UN expects almost two-thirds of the global population to be living in urban areas by 2050, with cities increasingly at the forefront. From Singapore and Hong Kong to Africa, cities are fast running out of space as their populations swell.
The pressing need for deep and coordinated action calls for practical and far-sighted multilateralism, the report said, adding that the Rio conventions on climate change, land degradation, and biodiversity loss offer a ready framework for global collaboration, but these aspects need to be integrated “more cohesively, ambitiously, and urgently.”
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