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Blueprints for a Greener Footprint - Sustainable Development at a Landscape Scale


Blueprints for a Greener Footprint - Sustainable Development at a Landscape Scale

Executive Summary

Achieving sustainable development requires new thinking about how the world meets the demands of a growing global population while also addressing increasing pressure on land and water resources and a changing climate. Investments in development projects for food, water, energy, minerals and infrastructure can help fuel economic growth, improve quality of life and lift people out of poverty. But these investments can also bring environmental impacts and social conflict. As each project is developed, cumulative impacts contribute to a “footprint”, which can degrade the health of a landscape and negatively affect communities, nature and the economy.
To take a more pro-active approach to sustainable development, there is an urgent need to transform development planning from the site level for individual projects to scenarios at a larger scale, or a landscape scale; this supports integrated solutions for achieving economic, social and environmental goals. Such an approach requires development planning: at a landscape scale; in advance of major project decisions; and for a more comprehensive set of values, functions and goals
Landscape-scale planning (LSP) can benefit governments, businesses and communities by supporting more informed development decisions. It promotes comprehensive risk management and offers greater predictability and transparency to businesses and communities. This can reduce conflicts, delays and costs. In addition, LSP may help identify new development options for shared facilities among two or more operators, or broader opportunities for integrated development corridors. Planning at this larger scale also informs strategies for long-term landscape resilience, such as ensuring functional watersheds for clean drinking water, connected habitat for species and buffers against climate effects. In this way, LSP can support progress on global sustainability initiatives, including many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Despite its abundant applications for sustainable development, LSP is not common practice. Government policies and institutions are often not set up to perform or fund LSP. Companies and financial institutions tend to be focused on their specific projects and investments. As a result, development planning often proceeds in a more ad hoc project-by-project manner, potentially missing opportunities for larger-scale integrated development solutions.
Transforming development planning will take collective leadership from government, industry, development agencies and financial institutions. While technological advances are rapidly contributing to the ability to execute LSP at a reasonable speed and cost, accelerating LSP adoption also requires breaking down planning silos, supporting public-private initiatives, and increasing resources for landscape-scale blueprints to promote sustainable development.