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Land resource-food price nexus

Circular plots illustrating the projected consequences of low- and high-pressure Sustainable Development Goals strategies. Strategy outcomes are measured by five environmental indicators (EI)— Land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) carbon emissions, agricultural water use, deforestation, biodiversity loss, and fertilizer use—and a global food price index (FPI). Policies on the outer ring of each circle indicate the third policy in each strategy. In the left (right) hemisphere of each circle, strategies are ranked from top to bottom by EI score (food price). Colors and percentages in each cell indicate the deviation for each indicator in year 2030 of the simulation relative to 2010. Figure from Obersteiner et al. (2016) Assessing the land resource–food price nexus of the Sustainable Development Goals. Science Advances 2(9), e1501499.

We assess the land resource-food price nexus of the Goals. As presented in Obersteiner et al. (2016), we use a comprehensive modelling approach to understand how coherent policy combinations can manage trade-offs among environmental conservation initiatives and food prices.

Our results show the likely effects for low-pressure and high-pressure strategies (see figure). In the left hemisphere of each circle, strategies are ranked from top to bottom according to environmental index score (food price). Within each circle, policy rankings are not perfect inverses, suggesting that a common ground can be found even between agendas that prioritize either sustainability or development.

Our scenario results indicate that the Sustainable Development Goals strategies constructed around Sustainable Consumption and Production policies can minimize problem-shifting, which has long placed global development and conservation agendas at odds. We conclude that Sustainable Consumption and Production policies (goal 12) are most effective at minimising trade-offs and argue for their centrality to the formulation of coherent Sustainable Development Goals strategies. We also find that alternative socioeconomic futures—mainly, population and economic growth pathways—generate smaller impacts on the eventual achievement of land resource–related Sustainable Development Goals than do resource-use and management policies.

We expect that this and future systems analyses will allow policy-makers to negotiate trade-offs and exploit synergies as they assemble sustainable development strategies equal in scope to the ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Contact Mario Herrero for more information.