Land use and climate solutions are inextricably linked, United Nations report says

Rodiano Bonacci
Agosto 12, 2019

Efforts to reduce emissions from transport, energy and manufacturing will not be enough, says the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reportexternal link presented on Thursday in Geneva.

For all these reasons, the IPCC concludes, gravitating towards "balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods" would hugely help the climate change cause.

The report said measures such as reduction in food wastage, sustainable agriculture practices and shifting of dietary preferences to include more plant-based food rather than animal-based could avoid a part of these emissions without jeopardising food security.

Globally, more than 70% of the land surface is used to satisfy people's needs. This means going for much more climate-sensitive food, and less wastage.

Released in Geneva ahead of the United Nations conference on combating desertification and land degradation which is to be held in India next month, the IPCC report also flagged how unsustainable farm practices, deforestation and land use patterns accounted for 23% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally during 2007-16 and how a business-as-usual scenario may lead to a global food crisis. But as countries with historically low meat consumption get wealthier, they will eat more meat and put even more strain on the environment - unless something changes.

It also says over a quarter of the food produced is either lost or wasted. "We have to urgently roll out sustainable farming practices, many of which can be profitable in three to five years".

Last year, the same body issued the alarming finding that we have roughly a dozen years left before the world misses its window for averting runaway global warming. Though it hasn't come out with country-specific data, the IPCC scientists referred to various regional scientific studies which spoke about impact of climate change on food security in the form of less yield and price rise.

With about 1.5°C of global warming, the risks from dryland water scarcity, wildfire damage, permafrost degradation and food supply instabilities are projected to be high.

When the ministers meet in September, I expect the IPCC report to have a strong influence not only on the policy decisions they will debate, but the will to take them home for appropriate action.

Donors provide food, typically fresh produce that's soon to expire and other such items, to a program that distributes the food to folks who need some help getting some food into their home. Lands play a dual role in climate change: We need lands for agriculture - which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions - but they can be part of the solution by drawing carbon from the atmosphere.

There are plenty of obstacles to adopting the report's suggestions around food. He hopes that when the public and politicians see reports like this one they remember that food and agriculture are key factors in the fight against climate change. Any scenario to limit global warming to less than 2°C by 2100 "requires land-related mitigation and land-use change", authors estimate.

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