SDSN at the 2023 Land & Carbon Lab Summit in Brussels

Alongside more than 40 other organizations and 600 experts using geospatial data for analysis, planning, and policy implementation, the SDSN was actively involved in the 2023 Land & Carbon Lab Summit.

In June 2023, the World Resource Institute (WRI), jointly with the Norwegian flagship International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) and the Bezos Earth Fund (BEF) – two of the world’s largest public and private funders of climate and nature-related work – convened the first Land & Carbon Lab Summit. The Summit was held at the center of European politics in Brussels, appealing to the European Union as a leading policymaker, and intended to attract many organizational participants. Modeled after the biennial Global Forest Watch Summit, the core team at WRI brought together policymakers, practitioners, and innovators from a wide range of organizations and countries, to explore opportunities and facilitate new partnerships around the power of geospatial data and tools to achieve this decade's climate, nature, and sustainable development goals.

The summit brought together a range of stakeholders interested and involved in the development of geospatial data, tools, and their applications. Availability and access to high-quality geospatial data have been expanding rapidly in recent years, and so have the seemingly endless opportunities to monitor the world’s land use evolution and impact on the environment. The conference’s more than 650 participants were scientists and data nerds; programmatic practitioners and policy users, including government officials and representatives from funding agencies from around the world. For three days, they seized on a dense program of presentations, discussions, and networking opportunities to showcase, learn, and network in pursuit of new opportunities, solutions, and applications to advance sustainability targets and development goals. Many sessions of the summit are available online on demand.

The SDSN team joined the summit’s many participants, including representatives from the Food/Land Team and SDSN’s geospatial expert at the newly launched SDG Transformation Center!

The program of events spanned eight main tracks, related to the application of geospatial data and tools to locally-led restoration, supply chains, deforestation and nature crime, sustainable food systems, as well as aspects of community-led land stewardship, predictable financing for nature-based solutions, and resilient cities.

Under a dedicated track on global targets for nature and climate, the FELD team was asked to share its experience with tracking policy action through the FELD (Food, Environment, Land and Development) Action Tracker, and its role in broader efforts to develop a broader Nature Action Tracker. Cecil Haverkamp, Director of the FELD Programme, presented on the need to complement existing monitoring tools with focused efforts to systematically assess what governments are doing in terms of policy, design, delivery, and implementation to achieve national targets, including those under the Paris Climate Agreement, the SDGs and, most recently, the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

A Spotlight Session jointly organized with the Food and Land use Coalition (FOLU), in which SDSN is one of the core partners, focused on the geospatial dimension of food systems transformation. Morvarid Bagherzadeh presented her take on Food Loss and Waste reduction with great enthusiasm, offering a sober review of slow past progress on SDG target 12.3, to halve food waste by 2030 and to reduce food loss. Noting the value and limitations of dominant supply chain approaches, she proposed a collaborative system-centered approach to addressing loss and waste of current food systems in order to overcome the prevailing obstacles. In his closing remarks to the session, Cecil Haverkamp drew from the experience of food loss and waste to illustrate and advocate a more pragmatic policy perspective that emphasized locally-driven problem-solving and priority-setting depending on local context and opportunities. Rather than being held up in debates over the lack of FLW data and methodological preferences around protocols that frustrated professionals willing to act, international partners should encourage more pragmatic action that dealt with measurement issues in parallel to concrete action to improve the delivery of existing policies. subsequent session coordinated by FOLU, on the political agenda on how to move “From Ambition to Action: What Can Food System Transformation Deliver?”, had a stronger global focus.

Seizing on the opportunity to engage with the country-based participants attending the Summit, SDSN members of the FABLE (Food, Agriculture, Biodiversity, Land-Use and Energy) Consortium Secretariat offered a training session on the “FABLE Scenathon: Reconciling Local Objectives and Global Sustainability”. Maria Diaz and Clara Douzal presented and explained to the participants both the background and current work of the FABLE Consortium, which now has 23 national FABLE teams worldwide. Together they explored the impact of different levers on the achievement of various local objectives and the possibility of collectively meeting global sustainability targets such as food security, climate change mitigation in the AFOLU sector, and zero deforestation. Participants also had a chance to get familiar with the tools through practical group work, focusing on a region and applying the FABLE Calculator in Excel to select and define alternative scenario options, e.g., restrictions on agricultural land expansion, dietary changes, productivity changes, trade changes, etc.