LEAF technical guidance series: Guidance on low emission land use planning

9am, December 10th, 2015

Land use planning combines the scientific disciplines of ecology, economics and social sciences in an effort to meet current and future societal needs for the utilization and conservation of land and natural resources. It must combine the best of current technology (such as satellite imagery) with the oldest of human values (e.g., people and their relationship to the land and the land of their ancestors) in an open and transparent process. It must engage people (the stakeholders), who often hold different interests and values, in a dialogue that reaches agreement on the sustainable land use in rural areas.

But the task of developing a land use plan is becoming increasingly difficult. Climatic patterns are changing and becoming highly variable challenging our current institutions and regulations governing land use planning (and generally established under ‘known’ or ‘stable’ climate patterns). Changing climatic patterns are also redistributing and generally limiting resources from our land use, increasing competition and demands on these resources. National policy makers are also now introducing carbon constraining policies and directing land management agencies to introduce greenhouse gas mitigation actions to meet these national targets. The question is therefore: How can greenhouse gas emissions (and removals from the atmosphere) be incorporated into a land use planning process to achieve environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically sound land use?

This guidance document, Guidance on low emission land use planning, has been written to help land use planners at the sub-national level respond to this question. It provides a general framework that is flexible, scalable and adaptable to a variety of different contexts with the goal of producing a low emission land use plan. It is not a detailed blueprint on land use planning, nor a highly technical document on landscape level carbon accounting. Rather it is a guide that provides a simple framework, some high level guidance on moving through the key process steps, outlines key challenges that planners may encounter at each step and presents a number important tools, methodologies and web resources that provide further detail and implementation information for those wanting to dig deeper into the subject.

Institutions Involved

  • United States Forest Service International Program
  • USAID LEAF Program
  • Spatial Informatics Group/University of San Francisco
  • Department of Environmental Science


Jim Barber, David Saah, Peter Stephen, Phuong Chi Pham
Links for Resource