Damage to land hurts climate battle, says UN report
A landmark U.N. climate report published today warns that continued damage to land and forests including to produce food will further undermine efforts to hit the goals of the Paris climate deal.
By focusing on the interplay between climate change, land and food security, the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change tackles a politically sensitive issue. Climate change raises tricky questions about how to save the planet while feeding the world.
“Land is where we live, land is undergoing human pressure, and land is part of the solution, but land cannot do it all,” Hoesung Lee, the IPPC chair, said at a press conference today.
The sector is challenging since land and forests can help reduce emissions, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, storing it in the ground, or providing alternatives to fossil fuels and carbon-intense materials such as plastics. But it’s also a major emitter. According to the European Commission, the agricultural sector produced 426,473 kilotons of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases, about 10 percent of the EU’s total GHG emissions for 2015.
Today’s report is about raising “awareness among all people about the threats and opportunities posed by climate change to the land we live on and which feeds us,” Lee said earlier this week. Rising temperatures could trigger an alarming series of knock-on effects for agricultural production, ranging from desertification and land degradation to water stress and soil erosion.
The assessment comes after the IPCC published a report in October on the implications of keeping global warming to the Paris Agreement’s more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees, which raised major pressure on politicians to speed up and deepen planned emissions cuts to keep warming in check.