Radical transformation of land use necessary to combat climate crisis

Posted on August, 01 2019

GLAND, Switzerland - On the eve of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 50th Session, where its Special Report on Climate Change and Land is due to be approved, WWF urgently calls on governments to recognize that without radical transformation of our land use and food systems, we won’t be able to prevent the climate crisis. Currently, agriculture, forestry and other land uses contribute around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

The IPCC will release its special report on the relationship between climate change and land on 8 August. This should provide a robust and integrated assessment of how action in the land sector can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF’s chief advisor on climate change and IPCC lead, said:
“We need to see an urgent transformation in how we use land in the future. This includes the type of farming we do, our food system and diets, and the conservation of areas such as forests and other natural ecosystems.  All of which can either help or hinder the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This new report should bring this home to us.”

Science must be the basis for ambition. This report will give countries the latest scientific and policy-relevant information to inform them on how they can increase their climate action pledges required in terms of the Paris Agreement. Land-related initiatives (be these around reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation or improving farming practices) currently provide up to a quarter of pledged climate actions to 2030, and their potential is much greater still. WWF calls on governments to adopt an integrated approach for dealing with land-based emissions and removals. 

“Good land-use choices are central to tackling the climate crisis. We must see a rapid shift in how we manage our land, alongside the necessary deep cuts to fossil fuel emissions, if we are to meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement,said Cornelius.

A system-wide move to sustainable land management and nature-based solutions is critical to securing a climate-safe future, while also contributing to other societal goals, such as halting nature loss and delivering food security.
The report should also highlight the fact that the climate and biodiversity crises are interlinked. Specific interventions can also provide important additional benefits to people and nature, including restoring crucial ecosystem services and providing resilience to climate change.

Given this, the report needs to be clear on four points, says Cornelius:
  1. Land and climate interact with each other.  The way we use land is driving the climate crisis, adding stress to land systems and so worsens existing risks to people and nature – for example through land degradation and food security.
  2. That current human demands on land are huge and unsustainable. Business-as-usual is not an option as the pressures on the land will only increase unless we change how we use it.
  3. Action on farming and forests is not an excuse for inaction on energy. All sectors must contribute to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
  4. We have hard choices to make on how land is used. Good choices can help mitigate climate change and improve climate resilience, while producing other benefits, such as improving food security and protecting nature.

For further information, contact:
Scott Edwards  |  WWF International |  sedwards@wwfint.org |  +44 7887 954116
Mandy Jean Woods  |  WWF International |  mwoods@wwfint.org 

The IPCC’s 50th Session is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, 2-6 August.

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries.  WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.  panda.org/news for latest news and media resources

Planting pine trees, Rwenzoni, Uganda
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