Looking to the Land in the Climate Change Race

As the world’s soils store more carbon than the planet’s
atmosphere, the restoration of soil and degraded land is therefore
essential in the fight against climate change with a potential to
store up to 3 million tons of carbon annually. Pictured here is a
2012 reclamation project of desertified, sandified land on either
side of the Sudu desert road in Wengniute County, China. Credit:
Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 26 2019 (IPS)

The international community still has a long way to go to chart
a new, sustainable course for humanity. But the upcoming climate
change meetings provide a renewed opportunity to tackle climate
change head on.

Ahead of the United Nations Climate
Action Summit
in September, governments are gearing up to
convene in Abu Dhabi for a preparatory meeting Jun. 30 to Jul. 1.
The meeting is expected to have the highest official international
participation since the Paris Agreement in 2015.

“This summit is a unique opportunity to make sure that climate
is not perceived as an environmental issue…the summit allows us
to bring climate into the overall agenda of development of a
country,” said Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on the
Climate Summit, Luis Alfonso de Alba.

“I think that’s the only solution for the climate. As long
as we keep climate as an environmental issue, we will never achieve
the level of transformation that is needed to deal with the problem
and particularly to move to a different way in which we consume and
produce as a society,” he added.

During the Abu Dhabu climate meeting, governments will make
concrete proposals for initiatives on various climate change
related issues from finance to energy. An agenda, recommendations,
and draft resolutions will then be presented and adopted during the
September summit.

In recent years, the climate change debate has been largely
focused on energy, particularly the use of fossil fuels. Most
recently, European Union (EU) leaders failed to reach a consensus
on how to make the EU carbon neutral by 2050 as coal-reliant
countries rejected the proposal. This sparked protests across the
continent, including a 40,000-strong rally at a German coal
mine.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also called for an end
to new coal plants after 2020 as well as fossil fuel subsidies.

While such moves are essential to reduce greenhouse gas
emissions, sustainable land management is another crucial aspect
that is often overlooked.

According to the U.N.
Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)
, the land use
sector represents almost 25 percent of total global emissions. As
the world’s soils store more carbon than the planet’s
atmosphere, the restoration of soil and degraded land is therefore
essential in the fight against climate change with a potential to
store up to three million tons of carbon annually.

Agroforestry could be an essential tool to address land
degradation and help communities to mitigate and adapt to climate
change.

A land management system where trees and shrubs are grown
together with crops and pasture, agroforestry has been found to
provide numerous benefits including improved soil and water
quality, increased biodiversity, high crop yields and thus incomes,
reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and increased carbon
sequestration. 

In Niger, agroforestry has helped restore five million hectares
of land through the planting of 200 million trees. This has
resulted in an additional half a million tons of grain production
each year, improving climate change resilience and food security of
an estimated 2.5 million people.

Such sustainable land management is therefore a potential
low-hanging fruit for achieving nationally determined contributions
(NDCs) under the Paris Agreement.

Already, 40 percent of developing countries propose agroforestry
as a measure in their NDCs, including 70 percent of African
countries.

However, current commitments for long-term climate action remain
insufficient as it covers only one-third of emissions reductions
required by 2030.

In fact, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human
rights Philip Alston that even if current targets are met, the
world is still at risk of a “climate apartheid” where the
wealthy are able to pay to escape heat and hunger while the rest is
left to suffer.

“Maintaining the current course is a recipe for economic
catastrophe,” the U.N. expert said.

“States have marched past every scientific warning and
threshold, and what was once considered catastrophic warming now
seems like a best-case scenario. Even today, too many countries are
taking short-sighted steps in the wrong direction,” Alston
added.

De Alba echoed similar sentiments regarding the uneven
commitment to climate action, stating: “If we are dealing and
trying to improve the transition of energy, if we are concerned
about land degradation and the protection of the forests, if we are
all looking into innovation—I think we are all working for
climate change whether we label it that way or not.”

Countries must therefore not only scale up their commitments,
but also address and close existing gaps.

For instance, the Consultative
Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
 found
that agroforestry is not included in countries’ measurement,
reporting, and verification (MRV) systems, including the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate
Change’s (UNFCCC)
own systems.

If agroforestry remains excluded from MRV, its contributions to
national and international climate objectives will remain
invisible.

“If agroforestry trees aren’t counted in MRV systems, then
in many ways they don’t count. Only if agroforestry resources are
measured, reported and verified will countries gain access to the
financial and other support they need to effectively include
agroforestry in climate change adaptation and mitigation,” CGIAR
said in a study, recommending the creation of guidelines for
agroforestry reporting.

De Alba stressed the need for the international community to act
quickly.

“Fighting climate change is compatible with growth, compatible
with the fight against poverty…it is important that we continue
the work from Abu Dhabi into the summit to get the best
results.”

The post Looking
to the Land in the Climate Change Race
appeared first on
Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Looking to the Land in the Climate Change Race