Natural solutions such as tree planting, protecting peatlands and better land management could account for 37% of all cuts needed by 2030, says study
Planting forests and other activities that harness the power of nature could play a major role in limiting global warming under the 2015 Paris agreement, an international study showed on Monday.
Natural climate solutions, also including protection of carbon-storing peatlands and better management of soils and grasslands, could account for 37% of all actions needed by 2030 under the 195-nation Paris plan, it said.
Combined, the suggested “regreening of the planet” would be equivalent to halting all burning of oil worldwide, it said.
“Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought,” the international team of scientists said of findings published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The estimates for nature’s potential, led by planting forests, were up to 30% higher than those envisaged by a UN panel of climate scientists in a 2014 report, it said.
Trees soak up heat-trapping carbon dioxide as they grow and release it when they burn or rot. That makes forests, from the Amazon to Siberia, vast natural stores of greenhouse gases.
Overall, better management of nature could avert 11.3bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions a year by 2030, the study said, equivalent to China’s current carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use.
The Paris climate agreement, weakened by US president Donald Trump’s decision in June to pull out, seeks to limit a rise in global temperature to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial times.
Current government pledges to cut emissions are too weak to achieve the 2C goal, meant to avert more droughts, more powerful storms, downpours and heat waves.
“Fortunately, this research shows we have a huge opportunity to reshape our food and land use systems,” Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said in a statement of Monday’s findings.
Climate change could jeopardise production of crops such as corn, wheat, rice and soy even as a rising global population will raise demand, he said.
The study said that some of the measures would cost $10 a tonne or less to avert a tonne of carbon dioxide, with others up to $100 a tonne to qualify as “cost-effective” by 2030.
“If we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature,” said Mark Tercek, chief executive officer of The Nature Conservancy, which led the study.
Image: “Planting trees is one of the best ways to harness the power of nature to cut carbon emissions, says study”. Photograph: Ben Curtis/AP
Lead researcher at the Bench-Marks Foundation, David van Wyk, says while coal mining is said to boost the South Africa’s economy, it affects badly the food security of the country.
Speaking on SAfm’s PM Live, Van Wyk says South Africa’s coal mining has led to the loss of lots of
and is therefore a threat to the country’s food production.
Van Wyk was speaking in the wake of the launch of the Break Free Campaign that aims to create awareness to climate change and hold businesses and governments accountable.
Van Wyk says while South Africa has an abundance of coal, it is a water- scarce country and water scarcity increases with coal mining because the little water that is available is polluted.
This means water from rivers such as the Olifants River cannot be drunk and fish from the river cannot be eaten.
“So we have to choose between air security, oxygen security, water security, food security and coal,” says Van Wyk.
Climate change will have far-reaching impacts on food security – not only at the farm level but on the entire food chain from farm to fork, according to an international report released at COP21 climate talks in Paris.A new report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture warns that climate change could impact the food supply in Colorado-and across the world.
As first time at a COP conference, agriculture had its own dedicated focus-day
This week, these concerns have been prominent on the agenda at the COP21 climate talks in Paris. For the first time at a COP conference, agriculture had its own dedicated focus-day, held on Tuesday by the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA), a partnership established between France and Peru to showcase and strengthen on-the-ground climate action in 2015 and beyond. “For years, agriculture, food systems, including oceans, including forests, have been knocking hard at the door—and now there’s movement starting,” said David Nabarro, former special representative of food security and nutrition for the United Nations, at the LPAA agriculture press briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
The challenge we now face is whether we can maintain and even accelerate this progress despite the threats from climate change. Mess around with this interactive map, created by the U.K.’s national weather service and the World Food Programme, to get an idea of what levels of carbon reductions and adaptation activities will bring in regard to food insecurity. A farmer tills his field. “Accurately identifying needs and vulnerabilities, and effectively targeting adaptive practices and technologies across the full scope of the food system, are central to improving global food security in a changing climate”.
“Changes in society and changes in climate will both be critically important to food security in the coming decades”, O’Neill said. “The risks are greatest for the global poor and in tropical regions”. “We must do all of this in the face of climate change that is threatening the productivity and profitability of our farms, ranches and forests”. However, this is likely to hit consumers and producers with changes to the prices of imported produce, as well changes to infrastructure, export demand, processing and storage.
That door should have been yanked open a long time ago, considering that our food systems are due to bear so much of the brunt of climate change. But there are strong signs of progress. The world needs creative solutions if we are to reduce agricultural impact and feed everyone on the planet (an estimated nine billion by 2050)—and some of the best have recently been aired at the talks.
Here are three that caught my eye: each places our global food system squarely on the climate table.
Future of Food Production in insecurity
The first step in prioritising food systems is to confront what will happen if we don’t. On Tuesday at COP21 the World Food Program and the U.K.’s Met Office Hadley Centre launched a new, interactive mapping tool that predicts, in unprecedented detail, how future climate scenarios could influence food security, especially in the world’s developing nations. Based on five years of meteorological and agricultural research, the Food Insecurity and Climate Change Vulnerability Map shows how food security could change at the individual country level, either worsening or improving depending on three variables that users can tweak on the map: time scale (you can choose between the present day, 2050s, 2080s), emissions (low, medium, high), and adaptation (high, low, none).
As a starting point, the map could help countries forecast their food security risk and inform their planning, says Richard Choularton, chief of climate and disaster risk reduction at the World Food Programme. “The results of the analysis can provide some insight into vulnerability at the national level, when the specific factors behind the index are unpacked.” For example, in one country road access might emerge as the main limit on food security, in another it might be the variability of rainfall.
The map also shows what can be achieved if reduced emissions are paired with increased adaptive measures—like climate-smart agriculture—to make food systems more secure. “What’s most important, especially in the context of Paris, is that mitigation or adaption alone is not enough,” Choularton says. “We need a very serious combination of both.”
Keeping soil carbon on lockdown
The planet’s soils naturally hold vast quantities of carbon—two to three times more carbon than the air. Releasing it through unsuitable, soil-degrading agricultural techniques will contribute to climate change and also reduce soil health—but, if we keep more carbon locked in the soil, it has the power to both mitigate climate change and increase agricultural productivity.
On Tuesday as part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, hundreds of partners joined to launch ‘4/1000’, an initiative designed to increase the storage of carbon in the earth: “If we were to increase the amount of carbon in the soil by just 0.4% then we would compensate entirely for the increase of carbon in the atmosphere—just to show how huge the potential is,” says Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Centers, one of the partners contributing to the initiative. As part of 4/1000 the CGIAR itself is proposing a $225 million project that aims to increase carbon storage by promoting better farming techniques in developing world agriculture. Methods like agroforestry and reduced soil tillage could keep carbon enclosed in the soil, leading to a 20 percent boost in yields, and in theory offsetting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent. The benefits will be three-pronged, says Rijsberman: “We will mitigate greenhouse gas emissions; adapt agriculture to climate change and thus improve food security; and improve ecosystem functioning.”
Global Collabration on Waste Treatment
An estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is lost and wasted annually between farm and fork, producing 3.3 Gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent each year. On Tuesday at COP21, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the International Food Policy Research Institute announced that to counter it, they’re launching a new platform that will encourage G20 member countries, the private sector, and NGOs to pool their resources toward the goal of fighting food waste. Today, that new forum—called the G20 Technical Platform on the Measurement and Reduction of Food Loss and Waste—goes live.
The platform is designed to “provide up to date information on policy, strategy and actions for food loss and waste reduction, and share best practices across countries—something which is badly needed,” says Anthony Bennett from the Rural Infrastructure and Agro-industries Division at the FAO. G20 member countries—which include China, Brazil, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States—along with other countries, will be encouraged to use the forum to share what works for them in cutting food waste, and what doesn’t. As the platform grows, it will also feature a database of low-cost, accessible technologies available to tackle this problem. The hope is that the platform will become a place where countries can unite and ultimately scale up their efforts to reduce the global impact of food waste.
These are just three of the many projects worth knowing about: as part of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, several other food-focused initiatives were launched this week, touching on everything from low-carbon beef to the sustainable management of marine food systems.
The latest news from Paris is cautiously optimistic that we will have an agreement by Friday. What does it mean for agriculture and food security? Although the French government has shown great leadership championing agriculture at COP21, it is not yet really on the table for the negotiators.
The good (and surprising) news comes from the commitments the countries have submitted. A recent CGIAR analysis of the first 150 country climate commitments (INDCs) submitted ahead of the UN climate talks revealed that countries appear to prioritize agriculture more than the negotiations have. 80% of commitments included agriculture in mitigation targets, and 64% included agriculture in adaptation strategies. Willingness to address agriculture and food security finally appears to be having some impact.
As Tim Grooser, Climate Minister of New Zealand put it: “After many years of banging my head on a brick wall, trying to get attention for agriculture in UNFCCC, we are finally being heard”. While this is unlikely to have a big impact on the result in Paris on Friday – it paves the way for more progress to be made in Marrakech at COP22, next year, via scientific (SBSTA) meetings held in Bonn in June 2016.
4 pour mille – solutions in soil
One of the most promising new ideas at the Paris climate talks so far, is the French government’s “4 pour mille” initiative. The name 4 pour mille (or 0.4%) refers to the annual increase in soil carbon, which would offset atmospheric carbon emissions. As the carbon reservoir in the soil is two to three times larger than all the carbon in the atmosphere, the initiative focuses attention on the huge potential agriculture has to become a critical part of climate change solutions. Agriculture and forestry alone can capture carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and sequester it in the soil.
Increasing soil carbon not only mitigates climate change, it also increases – or restores – soil health and fertility, thereby helping agriculture to adapt to climate change and improve environmental health overall. Yields will go up, farms will be more resilient, and emissions will be reduced as a co-benefit.
The private sector has made commitments in Paris aswell. A coalition of companies joined together under the umbrella of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to focus on low carbon agriculture solutions. Monsanto has announced that its operations will be carbon neutral by 2021, in just 5 years. John Bryant, the CEO of Kelloggs, went a step further in Paris by not only committing to carbon neutrality for its own operations, but also to work with farmers in its supply chains to make half a million farmers climate smart.
A proposal for the developing world
In Paris CGIAR announced a $225 million proposal that would take climate smart agriculture and 4 pour mille to seven developing countries: Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam, Nepal and Colombia. Farmers will co-develop and share widely climate-smart interventions that boost the levels of carbon captured in soils, such as conservation agriculture, agroforestry and improved forage systems. In those seven countries we estimate that farmers would be able to improve their agricultural yields by 20% and offset greenhouse gas emissions by 15% or 25 megatonnes of CO2e.
This will contribute to CGIAR’s own commitments to work, with partners, to reduce agriculture related emissions by 0.8 Gigaton, or 15%, by 2030, restore 190 million hectares of degraded land, save 7.5 million ha of forest from deforestation, and increase water and nutrient efficiency by 20%.
BELFAST, Mpumalanga – Experts say mining across Mpumalanga is damaging land that’s vital to food security. Grain SA has warned that this year may be the first time in seven years that South Africa will be a net importer of maize.
An expert has warned that mining in Mpumalanga is damaging land that is vital to food security.Mpumalanga is at the heart of South Africa’s coal production.
Mining coal acidifies the surrounding water and soil, meaning plants can’t grow, even long after the mines have closed down.
Louis Snyman, an environmental and mining attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, has warned that if this continues, the landscape will be left scarred and barren.
“What will happen at the end of the day this water that will be given to mines will be taken directly from farmers which is a huge issue when it comes to food security and when it comes to very fertile arable land becoming wastelands,” said Snyman.