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

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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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Fig. 1: The science–policy exchange cycle and associated time lags.
Fig. 2: Examples of time lags in uptake of innovations in land use.

Change history

  • 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).

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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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Correspondence to Calum Brown.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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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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Brown, C., Alexander, P., Arneth, A. et al. Achievement of Paris climate goals unlikely due to time lags in the land system. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 203–208 (2019).

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