United Nations pushes for sustainable land use, plant-based fuel

Pablo Tucker
August 12, 2019

According to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, agriculture, forestry and other land use contribute to around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. A reduction in that shocking figure presents what the UN Habitat agency calls 'an enormous opportunity for tackling food insecurity.' The reality is that the world is witnessing changing food systems.

Marta Rivera-Ferre, one of the report's lead authors and a food systems researcher at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia in Spain, told SciDev.Net: "Women, even though in developing countries they have a big role in farming, have less access to land and less decision-making power". To prevent such a temperature rise, global greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease by 40%-50% in the next decade, the scientists said.

We can not head off the worst ravages of climate change without action on land degradation. And he said keeping agricultural land in crop production also helps slow climate change.

"So I think we can make more impactful changes in our lives through recycling, or walking to work, or using public transportation than we can by actually changing what we eat, because it will have such a minimal impact", Buzzard said.

This is particularly important because the report raises serious concerns about how climate change will harm food security.

Faced with these life-changing consequences, the UNCCD has developed a robust policy framework that can enable countries to avoid further land degradation and recover land that has become virtually unusable.

Threats of global warming can not be tackled by cutting emissions from fossil fuels alone but also by adopting sustainable farm practices, plant-based food habits and better land use, observed a United Nations body - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - in its special report on climate change and land on Thursday.

In the worst case scenario, food security problems change from moderate to high risk with just a few more tenths of a degree of warming from now. The scientists say it's contributing to global warming.

The warming lowers the nutritional quality of the food we grow and reduces water supplies at the same time that global population is expected to top 10 billion people by midcentury. Amid recent reports that more than 820 million people are undernourished around the world, Co-chair of another Working Group, Jim Skea, highlighted the fact that up to 30 per cent of food is lost or wasted.

But the land is also a great carbon "sink", which sucks heat-trapping gases out of the air. "If we continue to degrade our ecosystem and continue to degrade our forest and destroy our soils, we're going to lose this natural subsidy we're getting", Verchot said.

Overall land emissions are increasing, especially because of cutting down forests in the Amazon in places such as Brazil, Colombia and Peru, Verchot said.

Saying "our current way of living and our economic system risks our future and the future of our children", Germany's environment minister, Svenja Schulze, questioned whether it makes sense for a country like Germany to import large amounts of soy from Latin America, where forests are destroyed to plant the crop, to feed unsustainable numbers of livestock.

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.

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