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Conservation, Development and Sustainable Land Use

Law, policy and finance for sustainable land development


Group Members:


Increasing demand for natural resources combined with competing uses for land draws our attention to the need for sustainable land management practices in both the developed and developing world. Given that approximately 20% of carbon emissions come from land use change and that much of the world’s population relies on ecosystem services as a basis for their livelihood, there is a pressing need to develop policies that can deliver both environmental protection and sustainable development.

The Programme for Conservation, Development and Sustainable Land Use represents one work-stream within the Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research (4CMR), which is a dedicated research centre of the Department of land economy, university of Cambridge. Our goal is to use the learning platform provided by our world-class institution to both generate and share knowledge that can support practical solutions to challenges linked to land use, land use policies and planning procedures. We therefore have teaching, research and engagement components within our overall programme.
An integrated analytical framework

We adopt a multi-disciplinary approach to examine the influences/pressures on land use and consider land use problems from 6 different perspectives:
  • Law and policy
  • Economics and finance
  • Social anthropology
  • Politics
  • Ecology and environmental assessment
Through this approach, we identify and assess ways to govern land use that are effective, equitable and sustainable, which can contribute to the resolution of global issues such as climate change, food security and economic development.


Multi-stakeholder engagement


In order to ensure maximum relevance and impact of our work, we engage stakeholders from civil society, the private sector and public organisations (such as international institutions and governments).


Research delivery and impact

In addition to academic study, we engage with communities and nations to build their institutional capacity so that they can better use our findings to create policies and programmes for conservation, development and sustainable land use. Wherever possible, we utilise internet-based tools to provide free public access to research and teaching materials.

Our contribution

Competing uses for land creates many challenges for policy-makers, particularly within the fields of conservation and development, where diverse and often-conflicting human aims impact land use. The academic field known as ‘land economy’ draws from a variety of different intellectual approaches to create both a multi-disciplinary perspective on land use challenges and a problem-solving framework for addressing them.


Our research ethos, values and vision


All research from the University of Cambridge is conducted and produced to the highest standards. All research conducted under the framework of the Programme for Conservation, Development and Sustainable Land Use aims to be:

  • Independent and apolitical
  • Methodologically unique and robust
  • Relevant, in that we consult with and deliver results that will assist different stakeholders
  • Open access and freely available
Please note that while making research results widely available is part of our general practice, we will respect any wishes related to privacy and/or confidentiality concerns.
Our vision is to provide a research centre where different actors (whether from civil society, the private sector, international institutions or government) can seek knowledge-based solutions to practical issues found within the field of land use and management.
Identifying research potential
With so many knowledge gaps and practical challenges within the fields of conservation, development and sustainable land use, an important part of our preliminary work is to determine the most appropriate topics for research. We evaluate research potential based predominantly on three criteria:
  • Is the research likely to address a gap in existing knowledge?
  • Will the results of this research assist in solving a practical problem?
  • Do we have the implementation partners necessary to ensure that the research has a significant impact in the relevant field, be it conservation, development, sustainable land use or a combination of these?
There are two taught modules derived from the work of the Programme for Conservation, Development and Sustainable Land Use:
These courses have been developed for the Environmental Policy Master’s programme within the Department of Land Economy. However, in response to demand from abroad, we have adapted these modules for delivery in a condensed format. At the request of local partners in developing countries, we offer these modules in an intense-delivery format either through a web-based or in-person format.

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Related Projects

REDD+ Law Project: understanding and resolving issues critical to the long-term success of the REDD+ programme

Overcoming the Legal Barriers to REDD+ Implementation: resolving core challenges to on-the-ground REDD+ projects

Financing Climate Compatible Land Use (Kenya Focus): identifying and enabling solutions to finance of climate-smart agriculture in Kenya

Integrated Assessment: creating a linked suite of assessment tools in energy, economy, climate, land use and health to assess pathways to reduced climate risk

Developed-Developing Nations: using a reduced scale model of the carbon cycle, energy, population and land use systems to explore the impacts on atmospheric carbon resulting from changes to these systems.



Chapman, S. and Wilder, M., "Fostering REDD+ Investment through Legal Frameworks: Lessons from the Development of Early Forest Carbon Projects", Carbon and Climate Law Review, 1, 43-53, 2013.

Crawford-Brown, D., “Assessing the Sensitivity of Climate Change Targets to Policies of Land Use, Energy Demand, Low Carbon Energy and Population Growth”, Journal of Environmental Protection, 3, 12, 1615-1624, 2012.



Briefing Papers

International Human Rights Provision Under REDD+




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4CMR has finished its cycle, and has been replaced by the Cambridge Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG). C-EENRG is also located in the Department of Land Economy, with a core mission to "conduct integrative research on the governance of environmental transitions, understood as social and technological processes driven by environmental constraints that lead to fundamental changes in social organisation."

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