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About sustainable landscapes

This page explains some of the ideas and terms used in this website.
Yellow-spotted Amazon river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis). Copyright: Harvey Barrison.

What do we mean by 'sustainable?'

Sustainable development is defined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This describes activities that can meet the needs of the present, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Broadly, sustainable development aims to ensure synergies and minimise trade-offs between economic, social and environmental (including climate) goals where these objectives compete.

What are ‘sustainable landscape initiatives’?

‘Sustainable landscape initiatives’ aim to protect forests and other ecosystems which provide important services, while providing social and financial benefits. They do this by looking at the broader picture, optimising the way land is used across the whole landscape. In practice, this means increasing agricultural productivity, improving conservation efforts and supporting traditional livelihoods.

The concept of sustainable landscapes is fully explored in GCP's Little Sustainable Landscapes Book.

As this is a relatively new concept, there are many different terms being used to describe different kinds of sustainable landscape initiatives. These include the ‘landscape approach’, ‘integrated landscape initiatives’ and the ‘jurisdictional approach.’ The relationship between these approaches is discussed in a November 2016 report from WWF.

What do we mean by ‘supply chains’ and 'interventions'?

The term ‘supply chains’ is often used to describe farming and commodity production processes. For example, palm oil is the product of a specific supply chain. This supply chain may include land clearance, agriculture, processing, waste disposal and so on.

Altering supply chains with targeted ‘interventions’ is the focus of sustainable landscape initiatives. In the case of palm oil, interventions may include changes to the way it is grown, processed and also safeguards to prevent unwanted knock-on effects in the landscape.

Can sustainable landscapes be financed?

Yes. While sustainable landscape initiatives may need millions, or even billions, of dollars of investment, this money can come from current financial flows. In many cases, this may mean designing financial mechanisms geared towards sustainability, which connect current investors and producers.

Which scale is best for sustainable landscape projects?

Sustainable landscape initiatives need to be based on a particular jurisdiction. This is because government objectives and projections are central to the projects. Initiatives aim to reconcile efforts to increase agricultural productivity with parallel efforts protect forests and other landscapes.

For the Unlocking Forest Finance projects, the appropriate jurisdiction was judged to be sub-national government. However, such initiatives may work well at the national level in smaller countries. The most appropriate scale will depend on local circumstances. According to the Forest Carbon Partnership, important factors include where the authority for land-use decisions resides, available capacity and resources, the feasibility of working at larger jurisdictional scales, and the ecological and economic relationship of forest areas.

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