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People, land and climate in a warming world

19 August 2019

An IPCC special report

Earlier this month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on climate change and land was published and approved by the world’s governments.

Speaking at a press conference at the launch on 8 August, IPCC chair Hoesung Lee explained what he viewed to be the “high level findings” of this report:

“Land is where we live. Land is under growing human pressure and is part of the solution, but land can not do it all.”

Overall focus on sustainability

The report shows that better land management can help to tackle climate change but is not the only solution. It is clear that reducing emissions from all sectors is crucial to keep below 2°C.

Critically, the report finds that climate change is best addressed with an overall focus on sustainability – managing land sustainably will help.

Degradation and food security

The report also reviews options to tackle land degradation and desertification. As land degrades and becomes is less productive, less grows and less carbon is absorbed. This cycle intensifies climate change, while land degradation is also intensified by changes in climate.

The report further finds that climate change is affecting food security in key areas of:

There are opportunities to manage risks and reduce the vulnerabilities to our land and food system the report says. An overall focus on sustainability and early action offers the best opportunity to reduce the risk of climate change. Efforts must include lowering population growth, improving nutrition, and reducing inequalities and waste.

Whole system approach

National and global policies that sit outside of land and energy domains, such as on transport and environment, can also be used to tackle climate change. Early action is more cost effective and adaptation is critical.

About the IPCC report

The report’s full name is Climate Change and Land, an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.

The land report is the second special report that the IPCC is due to publish this year. The second – on oceans and the cryosphere – is due in September this year. The IPCC also published a special report on 1.5C of warming in October 2018.

The aim of these special reports is to provide “an assessment on a specific issue”. They complement the main “assessment reports” that the IPCC publishes every five or six years.

The new report is the first from the IPCC with land as a central focus, since the special report on land use, land-use change and forestry in 2000.

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