IPCC report urges early action on land degradation

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a report on land use and its effect on climate change. The report describes land as “a critical resource” that is the main provider of food security, while stressing the importance of promoting biodiversity and land protection in the pursuit of meeting the Paris Agreement’s targets.

The report claims that “when land is degraded, it becomes less productive, restricting what can be grown and reducing the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. This exacerbates climate change, while climate change in turn exacerbates land degradation.” The goal of stopping or slowing land degradation is related to issues of food security that affect the world entire, but developing countries in particular. For the first time, the majority of contributors to this report were from developing countries, and the report is said to be the most comprehensive look at the world’s land-climate system to date. Problems of food waste are pointed to in the report as areas that require significant improvement in order to reach carbon emission and world hunger goals.

The IPCC proposes using risk management strategies to “enhance communities’ resilience to extreme events, which has an impact on food systems”. Paired with an overall focus on sustainability, and programmes to reduce income inequality and inequitable access to food, the IPCC urges governments and NGOs to take early action. However, there are limits, and in some cases degradation may be irreversible, according to the report. The areas most at risk are those with the potential to experience desertification, resulting from drought, wildfire, deforestation or non-sustainable agriculture projects. These areas are often low-income countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, which are predicted to feel the most drastic effects of climate change.

The IPCC suggests that national and local governments, as well as individuals take coordinated action to reduce the risk of desertification and food security. Balanced diets, including plant-based foods and low-carbon emitting animal products present opportunities to limit climate change and food waste, according to the report. Paired with sustainable land-management, the IPCC requests new policies to ensure the supply of food for vulnerable populations, while keeping carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere.

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