Sustainable land use

Contribute to land restoration, conservation, food system transitions, climate-resilient agriculture and agroforestry.

Land and food systems provide the principal basis for human livelihoods and well-being including the supply of food, freshwater and multiple other ecosystem services.

IPCC, 2019

The role of land


  • Soil formation
  • Photosynthesis
  • Nutreient and water cycling
  • Habitat and biodiversity


  • Food, fiber fuel
  • Freshwater
  • Natural medicines
  • Substrate


  • Ethical and religious
  • Research and education
  • Recreation tourism


  • Climate
  • Water quality / quantity
  • Natural hazards

Land and food systems play an important role in the climate system. As humans, we affect or manage 72 percent of the global ice-free land surface. Hence land management has a huge impact on our planet. Depending on how it's used and managed, land can be either a source or sink of carbon emissions. Changing our behaviour can not only limit the degradation we are causing, but can actually repair damage inflicted in the past. We can turn a problem into an active solution.

What to invest in now? We can support you to maximize your philanthropic impact in two areas:

  1. Landscape conservation and protection
  2. Agriculture and agroforestry

Currently, 43 percent of the global population lives in regions affected by land degradation – typically these regions are densely populated with people that are negatively affected by issues such as water scarcity, crop failure or sea-level rise.1

Due to these ever worsening impacts of climate change, the average crop yield such as wheat, maize or rice, could be reduced up to 10 percent by 21002, putting an estimated 183 million additional people at risk of hunger. And more than 700 million people, so-called 'climate-migrants' are forced to move away from non-viable areas, could be displaced by 2050. Supporting the agricultural transition will help people and habitats adapt to our changing climate, while simultaneously mitigating climate change and helping to stop the problem.

A philanthropic investment in landscape restoration and conservation – key takeaways

Soil is the biggest terrestrial carbon sink, storing more carbon globally than the planet’s biomass and atmosphere combined.
Soil protection and restoration can provide 1/3 of the most cost-effective mitigation activities needed by 2030 to keep global warming under the 1.5˚C threshold.3

Understanding CO2 emissions can be challenging. And it doesn't help that the world usually talks about them in big units – gigatons. One gigaton = 1,000,000,000 tons = approximately 2x the mass of our global population = well over a 100 million African elephants = 3 million Boeing 747 airplanes. Just to put that into perspective.

The world is currently emitting more than 36 billion tons of CO2 each year. Terrestrial ecosystems are powerful carbon sinks: Forests, peatlands, and grasslands store large amounts of carbon in vegetation and soil.

Global land areas stored 11.2 gigatons of CO2 per year.4

That’s 29% of total CO2 emissions for the decade.5

Protecting peatlands26 – 42 GtCO2e

Peatlands cover less than five percent of our land, but store more natural terrestrial carbon than the Earth's forest biomass.6

Peatlands produce greenhouse gases – especially when drained.

Protecting peatlands is essential for conserving biodiversity, providing drinking water, and reducing flooding.

Restoring temperate forests19 – 28 GtCO2e

Forests are essential: they sequester carbon, support livelihoods, shelter natural biodiversity, offer protection from flooding and erosion, and help drive sustainable growth.

Restoring abandoned farmland12 – 20 GtCO2e

When abandoned farmland recovers naturally, it restores its vegetation and soil carbon. And reduces carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But, recovery is slow, and can take centuries to arrive at a natural state.

Protecting grasslands3 – 4 GtCO2e

Grasslands are essential in the food supply chain. Also, they provide us with aquifer recharge, or pollination. 

Elevated temperatures bring droughts, which negatively impact grasslands by increasing wildfires and loss of habitat. Ultimately, changes in species and plants, can have a negative impact on communities that depend on farming in these regions.

Be strategic about your philanthropy

We can help you maximize your impact in the area of landscape restoration and conservation by focusing on three strategic areas.

Protect terrestrial ecosystems at risk of conversion

  • Conserve high carbon ecosystems
  • Prevent desertification
  • Enhance rights of indigenous communities that conserve land
  • Encourage sustainable sourcing of land-based non-agriculture products

Restore the productivity of degraded land

  • Re-introduce native vegetation
  • Increase biomass to enrich soils 
  • Promote natural soil carbon sequestration

Reduce demand for land conversion

  • Facilitate transition to alternative livelihoods
  • Strengthen international platform for land use governance
  • Promoting policy coherence on sustainable production and consumption of land-based commodities
  • Eliminating incentives that promote land degradation

Get in touch

Ready to start a conversation? Contact our UBS Philanthropy Services team or your UBS advisor today to learn how we can help you maximize your impact.

A philanthropic investment in agriculture and agroforestry – key takeaways

Agriculture encompasses farming activities incl. cultivating soil, producing crops, and raising livestock. Agroforestry refers to managing land incl. growing trees in association with food crops or pastures. Agroforestry and changes in current agricultural practices can contribute significantly to mitigating climate change.

AgroforestryApproximately 65 GtCO2e

Agroforestry includes tree intercropping and silvopasture.

Tree intercropping (growing trees and annual crops together) increases biomass, soil organic matter, and carbon sequestration.

Silvopasture integrates trees, pasture, and forage into a single system.

Help to incorporate trees to improve land health and by doing so significantly increase carbon sequestration.

Conservation and regenerative agricultureApproximately 35 GtCO2e

Conservation agriculture uses cover crops, crop rotation, and minimal tilling in the production of annual crops.

It protects soil, avoids emissions, and sequesters carbon.

Building on conservation agriculture, regenerative annual cropping can include compost application, green manure, and organic production.

Improved rice productionApproximately 18 GtCO2e

Improved rice production involves improved soil, nutrient management, water use, and tillage practices. A holistic approach to sustainable rice cultivation includes reducing water use and alternating wet and dry conditions.

This minimizes methane production and greenhouse gas emissions.

Be strategic about your philanthropy

We can help you maximize your impact in the areas of agriculture and agroforestry by focusing on three strategic areas.

Promote climate resilient agriculture

  • Teach and train farmers on climate-smart production technologies
  • Provide financing for adapting new production technologies
  • Create awareness and develop competencies of regulatory bodies at local and national level

Engage consumers and support climate-smart products

  • Support farmers in obtaining certifications
  • Promote awareness and usage of certified (e.g. FLOCERT, Rainforest Alliance) products
  • Advocate for legally binding climate sensitive regulations for agricultural products
  • Support and raise awareness around plant-based foods and meat alternatives

Advance the political debate

  • Advocate for legally binding instruments and regulations benefitting small-hold farmers (e.g. import and export tariffs, subsidies, transparent supply chains)
  • Raise awareness of consumers for seasonal and low-emission local goods

Get in touch

Ready to start a conversation? Contact our UBS Philanthropy Services team or your UBS advisor today to learn how we can help you maximize your impact.