Shift Away from Damaging Land Use Imperative Report Warns
Climate Crisis Cannot be Tackled without Shift Away from Damaging Land Use, Major Report Warns
8 August 2019, Geneva (Switzerland) - According to an authoritative new report presented in Geneva today, the way we currently use land is both a major contributor to climate change and places unsustainable demands on the land systems on which humans and nature depend.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Climate
Change and Land explores the relationship between
climate, people and land in a warming world. It warns that
climate change is placing additional stress on land,
increasing degradation, and biodiversity loss and food
Dr Stephen Cornelius, Chief Advisor on Climate Change and IPCC Lead for WWF, said:
“This report sends a clear message that the way we currently use land is contributing to climate change, while also undermining the land’s ability to support people and nature. We need to see an urgent transformation in our land use. Priorities include protecting and restoring natural ecosystems and moving to sustainable food production and consumption.
“Good land choices are fundamental to tackling the climate crisis. A shift to sustainable land management must be accompanied by the necessary rapid and deep cuts to fossil fuel emissions if we are to meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. Action on one alone is not enough.”
To play its part in tackling climate change and keeping global heating to 1.5°C, the EU must emit zero net greenhouse gases by 2040. The EU must take action in several areas, notably:
• Agreeing an EU net zero emissions target for 2040,
and increasing the 2030 climate target to 65% emissions
reductions, as soon as possible;
• Phasing out coal and fossil fuels in a socially fair manner, including by ending subsidies for them and ensuring a strong decarbonisation strategy for industry, whilst providing support to people in regions in need to make the transition;
• Turning the recent EU plan on deforestation into powerful legislation which ensures that no product linked to deforestation or ecosystem destruction may enter the EU market; and
• Reforming the Common Agricultural Policy to encourage farmers to move towards climate- and nature-friendly farming, such as protecting and boosting the carbon content of farmed soils or cutting the EU’s production and consumption of animal products.
Humans use approximately 72% of the global ice-free land surface. Land use contributes around 23% of total human-caused greenhouse gas emissions; primarily through deforestation, habitat conversion for agriculture and livestock emissions. The removal of forests, conversion of peatlands and other natural ecosystems releases carbon, while at the same time contributing to unprecedented biodiversity loss and land degradation. The food sector alone is responsible for 75% of deforestation worldwide, with the greatest pressure on forests taking place in the tropics. It is also a major driver of savannah and grassland conversion.
Climate change is already affecting the four pillars of food security - availability, access, utilisation and stability - through increasing temperatures, changing precipitation patterns and greater frequency of some extreme events.
“Delayed action will increase the risk of climate change impacts on food security. Those most at risk are the world’s poorest.
“Early action to address the climate crisis has the potential to provide multiple co-benefits across the whole range of land challenges, with many options contributing positively to sustainable development and other societal goals,” added Cornelius.
The report highlights the synergies and trade-offs inherent in our land choices. WWF considers an integrated suite of sustainable land management tools necessary to secure a climate safe future, while supporting food security and nature. A New Deal for Nature and People is required, and nature-based climate solutions should play a key role.
Therefore, WWF Central and Eastern Europe (WWF-CEE) is implementing local, nature-based solutions to land use and climate change issues along the Danube, its tributaries and wetlands through its forestry, freshwater and green economy programmes. For instance, healthy wetlands and riparian forests, as currently protected under the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), can help us become more resilient to the impacts of climate change. Our Living Danube Partnership, WiseDravaLife, as well as the LIFE-MICACC (Municipalities as Integrators and Coordinators in Adaptation to Climate Change) Projects address some of these issues. WWF-CEE also approaches land use and climate change problems by establishing or strengthening existing sustainableecosystem services and use of natural capital, for example through its Local Economy and Nature Conservation in the Danube Region (LENA), and Promoting Payments for Ecosystem Services and Related Sustainable Financing Schemes in the Danube Basin (PES) projects. Protecting old growth, virgin, riparian and high conservation value forests; restoring wetlands; pushing for the removal of harmful dams and the prevention of new ones along the region’s rivers; instituting specific, environmentally sustainable land use and agriculture management measures to create synergies between ecosystem services and their socio-economic value; and enhancing ecosystem service management structures will improve the Green Heart of Europe’s ability to adapt to climate change.
The science presented in the report further underlines that climate, people and nature are fundamentally linked. Efforts to mitigate climate change and halt nature loss must be fully integrated with climate adaptation and food security considerations.
Land-based mitigation options make up to a quarter of total mitigation proposed by countries in their country climate plans submitted to the UN under the Paris Agreement.
“Countries should make
full use of nature-based climate solutions,
together with other key measures such as reducing fossil
fuel emissions, to enhance their commitments under the Paris
Agreement by 2020. The first opportunity to announce such
bold plans will be the Climate Summit in New York in
September,” said Fernanda Carvalho, Global Policy
Manager for WWF’s Climate and Energy Practice