8 August 2019, Rome – FAO welcomes the IPCC special report released today, which gives a comprehensive and stark account on the damages being done to our planet, highlighting how unsustainable agricultural practices can turn land from an ally into a foe when it comes to climate change, and putting forward workable solutions to reduce or reverse these negative trends.
The report explores issues that are key to FAO’s core work – including sustainable agriculture and food systems, food security and nutrition, climate change adaption and mitigation and biodiversity preservation – and FAO’s contribution to the report has been substantial.
“This is an alarming report on how the systematic degradation of soils, cutting of forests, desertification, unsustainable agricultural practices, and reduction of biodiversity have turned our land into a major source of carbon, putting our food security and environment at a greater risk,” FAO Deputy Director-General for Climate and Natural Resources Maria Helena Semedo said.
As FAO noted before, it is inconceivable that about one third of food produced is lost or wasted, and that between a quarter and a third of all greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to come from the way we use our land, and produce and consume our food.
FAO is also concerned about the report’s warning that food security will be increasingly affected by future climate change through reductions in crop and livestock productivity, especially in the tropics.
“In a context where the number of undernourished people continues to grow, and where global crop and economic models project a 29 percent increase in cereal prices in 2050 due to climate change, FAO hopes that the report will spur the global community to scale up climate change adaptation and mitigation actions,” added Semedo.
Climate change solutions
FAO believes that the agriculture sector has great potential to store vast quantities of carbon in soils, forests and oceans, and be a bigger solution than a problem when tackling climate change.
For this to happen, it is vital to adopt smarter, integrated farming systems and better forest governance and land-use planning, and shift to approaches that safeguard biodiversity, use natural resources sustainably and promote ecosystem services.
Adopting best practices in livestock feeding and manure management, and making better use of technologies such as biogas generators and energy-saving devices are also part of the transformation to sustainable agriculture, and hence, strengthen action against climate change.
It is also crucial to consume a diversified diet to ensure a less intensive use of natural resources.
Options such as improved harvesting techniques, on-farm storage, infrastructure, transport, packaging, retail and education can reduce food loss and waste across the supply chain.
As the report points out, mutually supportive climate and land policies have the potential to save resources, amplify social resilience, support ecological restoration, and foster engagement and collaboration between multiple stakeholders. Whilst, policies that enable and incentivise sustainable land management, including improved access to markets and financial services, empowering women and indigenous peoples, reforming subsidies and promoting an enabling trade system, are part of tacking climate change.
Note: Two FAO senior officers contributed to the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security and GHG fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems as lead authors.
Their work has ensured that the report could address exhaustively fundamental issues of relevance to food and agriculture, including extensive use of FAO statistics on land use, food security and agri-environmental indicators, GHG emissions.