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The Governance of Land Use in OECD Countries

Policy Analysis and Recommendations

image of The Governance of Land Use in OECD Countries

Land use has important consequences for the environment, public health, economic productivity, inequality and social segregation. Land use policies are often complex and require co-ordination across all levels of government as well as across policy sectors. Not surprisingly, land use decisions can be contentious and conflicts over land use are common across the OECD. This report argues that better land use governance requires the use of a broader set of public policies to influence land use. In particular, the incentives for particular land uses provided by fiscal instruments and tax policies need to be better aligned with land use objectives. The report furthermore analyses land use patterns across the OECD based on comprehensive land cover data. It shows that developed land is growing everywhere, but great variation exists between countries. Lastly, the report summarises insights from six in-depth case studies to show concrete examples of land use related challenges in OECD countries and the response of national, regional and local governments to them.

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Executive Summary

Land use matters for many of the most important policy questions of our time: environmental sustainability, CO2 emissions and biodiversity, and public health, for example. Land and buildings constitute by far the most important share of wealth in the OECD, making up 86% of total capital stock (roughly evenly split between land and property), with a corresponding value of USD 249 trillion. Thus, any changes to the value of land and property have important consequences for the distribution of wealth and for investment. Land use also matters because people care strongly about how land is used, as the often intense and emotional debates around it show.

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