We need clean air and water for a sustainable future. We also need healthy land. Climate change doesn’t just alter the health of our land but is also affected by how we use it. The bad news is that the way we currently manage our land is contributing to the increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The good news is there are solutions and, central to them, is how we produce and consume food.
The IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land, which is due to be approved in Geneva next week, will explore the relationship between climate and land. It is expected to set out the contribution of our food systems to the climate crisis, as well as the transition we need to see in how we produce and consume food if we are to meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement.
We already know that our land surfaces are warming faster than the global average. This puts them in are at severe risk, and their deterioration will lead to decreases in crop yields, increases in droughts and wildfires, and even more carbon pollution which will accelerate further warming. At the same time, rapid warming is largely driven by our land-use — agriculture, forestry and other uses contribute between a fifth and a quarter of net global greenhouse gas emissions. We are using more land than ever before, and population growth will only fuel demand unless we tackle our consumption, including for food.
There are two ways we can use our lands to both improve their health and productivity, and to limit their impact on global warming. We can reduce the amount of emissions from land and we can use land to draw down carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.
With regards to reducing emissions, we can only do so if we transform our food system.
Firstly, it’s necessary to decrease deforestation and natural habitat conversion. Agriculture has caused nearly three quarters of all deforestation but, alongside forests, it also affects other types of landscapes — in fact more than 50 per cent of habitat destruction from food production happens in grasslands and savannas…