Landmark IPCC report urges the world to halt deforestation

Yesterday, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) launched its special report on climate change and land.

The landmark report highlights how humans affect over 70% of non-ice land surface of the globe. Intact forests now represent only a total 9% of Earth’s land surface and other natural intact ecosystems represent 7%.

Safeguarding natural old growth primary forests from deforestation and degradation is our best defence in our global fight against climate change and averting the ongoing biodiversity crisis.

The report highlights the critical role that protecting natural old growth forests and sustainable land use must play in both mitigating climate change and guaranteeing global food security. Unlike other mitigation solutions, halting deforestation requires no additional land use change which can trigger complex cascading environmental, socio-economic costs and benefits.

Across the globe, indigenous-managed lands better protect their lands from deforestation and have equal-or-higher biodiversity than other protected areas. For the first time, an IPCC report clearly states that agricultural practices that include indigenous and local knowledge are key to to overcoming the combined challenges of climate change, food security, biodiversity conservation, and combating desertification and land degradation.

Indigenous Peoples and local communities from 42 countries spanning 76% of the world’s tropical forests today have responded to IPCC report:

We manage at least 22% (218 gigatons) of the total carbon found in tropical and subtropical forests (including both above- and belowground sources). At least a third of this carbon — and likely much more — is in areas where we lack formal recognition of our land rights.

Indigenous and Community Response

“Firstly, as the report rightly points out – indigenous peoples are key, we need to protect customary land rights. We must encourage sustainable land management and stop illegal logging and looting of forest resources.” Said EIA

We also need new laws that stop commodities produced through deforestation, degradation and human rights abuses entering our global supply chains.“

Oil palm plantation in Indonesia (c) EIAimage

Intensive farming is a major driver for deforestation. The report shows that emissions with the global food system are estimated to be 21-37% of total net anthropogenic GHG emissions, of comparable size to electricity, transport, or industry.

The special report addresses the complexity and competing interests of land use and their recommendations outline that there is an unequivocal need to carry out several concurrent actions:

  • Regenerate and restore degraded natural forests
  • Reduce food waste. Currently, 25-30% of total food produced is lost or wasted
  • Adopt new farming systems including agroforestry which can substantially reduce erosion and nutrient leaching while building soil carbon
  • Reduce dependency on fossil fuels and enabling and promoting access to cleaner energy sources.