Perspective | Published:

Achievement of Paris climate goals unlikely due to time lags in the land system

Nature Climate Changevolume 9pages203208 (2019) | Download Citation


Achieving the Paris Agreement’s aim of limiting average global temperature increases to 1.5 °C requires substantial changes in the land system. However, individual countries’ plans to accomplish these changes remain vague, almost certainly insufficient and unlikely to be implemented in full. These shortcomings are partially the result of avoidable ‘blind spots’ relating to time lags inherent in the implementation of land-based mitigation strategies. Key blind spots include inconsistencies between different land-system policies, spatial and temporal lags in land-system change, and detrimental consequences of some mitigation options. We suggest that improved recognition of these processes is necessary to identify achievable mitigation actions, avoiding excessively optimistic assumptions and consequent policy failures.

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Journal peer review information: Nature Climate Change thanks Richard Houghton and Monica Di Gregorio for their contribution to this work.

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  • 18 March 2019

    In the version of this Perspective originally published, the following ‘Journal peer review information’ was missing “Nature Climate Change thanks Richard Houghton and Monica Di Gregorio for their contribution to this work.” This statement has now been added.


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This research was supported by the Helmholtz Association, the UK Global Food Security Programme project Resilience of the UK food system to Global Shocks (RUGS, BB/N020707/1), and the EU Seventh Framework Programme projects LUC4C (grant no. 603542) and IMPRESSIONS (grant no. 603416).

Author information


  1. Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research, Atmospheric Environmental Research (IMK-IFU), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

    • Calum Brown
    • , Almut Arneth
    •  & Mark Rounsevell
  2. School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • Peter Alexander
    •  & Mark Rounsevell
  3. Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK

    • Peter Alexander
  4. Cranfield Water Science Institute, Cranfield University, Bedford, UK

    • Ian Holman


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C.B. carried out data and literature reviews, and wrote the manuscript with assistance from P.A., A.A., I.H. and M.R.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Calum Brown.

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