Article of the Month - July 2023

FIG Working Week 2023 Keynote:
Global Land Outlook and Protecting our World

Clarissa Augustinus
FIG Working Week 2023 took place in Orlando, Florida, 28-May - 1 June 2023. Three plenary sessions set the scene of each of the three conference days. The main theme on the first day was: PROTECTING OUR WORLD

In this introduction and recording that is offered to you in this "Video of the Month Series" Clarissa Augustinus outlines some of the key climate challenges facing our planet and the vital role that surveyors play in addressing the climate crisis.

Climate challenges facing our planet

On Monday 29 May 2023, at the FIG Working Week in Orlando, United States of America, a panel of land and climate experts came together to talk about the climate crisis and what role surveyors can play in climate action. The climate crisis represents the single greatest challenge humankind faces to ensure our planet remains sustainable and our people remain resilient. Land and climate underpins the FIG Council’s vision of sustainability over the term 2023- 2026.  For the benefit of society, concerted action by FIG Members is needed to help meet a range of climate challenges such as greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, deforestation and large-scale land use change, desertification, urban sprawl into agricultural land, water scarcity, pollution of the seas and more. The expertise of FIG Members means they are well positioned to make a major contribution to addressing a wide range of land and water related climate change issues. 

Objective of the session

By bringing together a panel of active industry professionals and thought leaders on land and climate, the session was intended to catalyse increased climate action by surveyors. The session also announced the creation of a dedicated FIG Task Force on climate, the Climate Compass Task Force.

What the recording is about

In this recording from the session in Orlando Clarissa Augustinus outlines some of the big land and climate challenges where surveyors can play a role. As co-editor and co-coordinator of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification Global Land Outlook Second Edition, which reviewed the state of the planet’s land, she gives us insights into future land demands, and the kind of climate actions which needs the work of land professionals. She shows that the land profession is in the critical path of achieving humanities environmental goals. She describes some of the key global land trends and numbers. For example 13-21 percent of annual global green house gas emissions are from land use change; and 20-40 percent of the earth’s surface is already degraded. She gives us land use scenarios that have been modelled using big land use data of what our future looks like if we do nothing, or if we take a range of actions, many of which impact our profession. She describes what is at stake for Latin America and Sub-Sarahan Africa if we do nothing, and their potential role in restoring the future health of the planet. She describes what the profession with its range of skills, knowledge and positions of influence can do to support the protection of our planet and identifies a number of areas of work for surveyors. The discussion on climate actions at global level has too often neglected key aspects of the roles played by surveyors on the ground. However, there is now a strong emerging interest in linking land use, land tenure, the blue economy and geospatial information more closely in a practical way and getting to grips with what happens on the ground.

FIG wishes to examine and actively promote the engagement and role that surveyors can have in contributing to the climate change agenda. FIG wishes to lead its members so that they can fully understand, articulate and use their expertise and knowledge to tackle the important challenges in climate action. The FIG Task Force on Climate Change, which is led by young surveyors working with seasoned surveyors, and Co-Chaired by Roshni Sharma and Clarissa Augustinus, was set up for this purpose. The Climate Compass Task Force (TF) will elevate the work that has already been done, and is continuing to be done, by the FIG Commissions, Task Forces and other groups globally. It will act as a portal to provide a clear picture of the role that surveyors, as a global profession, play in measuring, managing and mitigating the present and future impacts of climate change. A key focus of this Task Force will be its Communications Strategy, which is the foundation for outreach, capacity development, awareness raising and harvesting knowledge, to be able to strengthen the surveying profession’s ability to act on global climate challenges. The Task Force will support surveyors by increasing awareness and capacity about their roles and impact so they can engage even more with the climate crisis and help countries to meet their net zero and biodiversity targets. It will also support surveyors to reach out to other global and national audiences and partners through the collection, development and sharing of relevant land, building, natural resources and climate related knowledge, and the identification of areas in which surveyors have the professional expertise to contribute to actions and studies that the global climate action agenda needs.

If you want to be part of FIG’s climate action community please join us on our LinkedIn page

Diane Dumashie, President of FIG states:
“As surveying and geo-spatial professionals, we are here to serve society which means we must be involved in finding solutions to the climate crisis. The expertise of FIG Members means they are well positioned to make a major contribution.”

Watch and be inspired by the keynote presentation by Clarissa Augustinus here:



About the author

Dr. Clarissa Augustinus – Honorary Ambassador of FIG  
Clarissa Augustinus is interested in land administration and land use change and management, land governance, climate and conflict. She is the founder and Lead on the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), a network of over 60 international partners (2004- 2015), with FIG being a vital partner. She was the Land and Global Land Tool Network Unit Leader in the Urban Legislation, Land and Governance Branch, UN-Habitat based in Nairobi, Kenya (2003-2015) and the focal point for urban land in the United Nations system.

She was appointed Honorary Ambassador by FIG by reason of service to the global surveying and land administration industry (2014-). She is a Co-Chair of the FIG Task Force Climate Compass (2023-2026) and a Senior Adviser to the Arab Land Initiative of UN-Habitat and Global Land Tool Network (2018-). She was the co-coordinator and co-editor of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (2022) Global Land Outlook 2nd Edition on Land Restoration for Recovery and Resilience. She was a Senior lecturer in the Department of Land Surveying in the School of Engineering, Surveying and Construction at the University of KwaZulu Natal with a focus on land management and cadastral reform (1994-2000) and during this time also gave technical assistance to a range of countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Mozambique, Uganda, Indonesia. She is the (co-) author of 21 peer reviewed journal articles, 7 book chapters and over 70 UN reports and publications and papers in conference proceedings on pro poor land administration and management, and land and property in fragile states. She has a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from Rhodes University (South Africa) (1995).