The latest report from the United Nations panel warned that more needs to be done to accelerate the trend of slowing emissions, especially in the agricultural sector.
It is not too late for the world to act and counter the impacts of rising global temperatures, the United Nations has warned.
The latest report published by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) focuses on how research, technology and cooperation can enable mitigation strategies against the worst consequences of climate change.
We cannot only offer technology and mitigation options without working on enabling local conditions. We need to shift the paradigm.
The report asks for rapid action and lists a detailed series of interventions and strategies that may be employed to prevent the steady rise of global temperatures. It also considers the institutional, financial, social and environmental issues related to these interventions and strategies.
“We have the science. We have the technology. We now need a coordinated effort both on an international and local level,” Rachid Mrabet, director of research at the National Institute for Agricultural Research in Morocco and a co-author of the report, told Olive Oil Times.See Also:Climate Coverage
“Governance and institutional capacity are essential. Finance is crucial. We need all players to act, from citizens to industry, to governments and local institutions. We have the means,” he added.
The latest IPCC report is the third installment of the organization’s Sixth Assessment Report. The previous parts demonstrated the evidence that a climate disaster is already underway, explored its impacts and how humanity and the natural world can or will adapt.
The new report is devoted to what is being done and could be done to mitigate climate change, focusing on mitigation-enabling conditions.
In a note, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres remarked on the significance of this “critically important” report produced by hundreds of scientists from dozens of countries over almost four years.
“This is the report that gives us options. It offers strategies to tackle the critical questions of our time,” he said. “How can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions? How can we sequester carbon? How can the buildings, transport, cities, agriculture, livestock and energy sectors be more sustainable?”
IPCC experts said rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions showed signs of slowing down from 2010 to 2019 compared to the previous decade. However, since 1990, anthropogenic GHG emissions have been steadily rising from all sources with significant accelerations in fossil fuel-related emissions.
“Very relevant mitigation potential is there,” Mrabet said. “What we need is technology transfer from the Global North to the Global South, which has slowed down with the Covid-19 pandemic.”
“Also, financing is needed, with larger sums devoted to forestry and sustainable agriculture,” he added. “We have to cope with many different social contexts, where poverty and food insecurity still touch millions of people.”
“We need to look at the local culture, ways and societies,” Mrabet continued. “We have to respect that and work with institutions. We cannot only offer technology and mitigation options without working on enabling local conditions. We need to shift the paradigm.”
Should emissions not be curtailed soon, researchers believe global surface temperatures will easily exceed 1.5 ºC compared to the pre-industrial era.
“If we do not act, we are heading towards a scenario in which temperatures could have grown over 2 °C or even double that by the end of the century,” Mrabet said.
According to the report, to stay within the 1.5 °C limit, GHG emissions should peak before 2025, and by 2023 global emissions should be slashed by 43 percent.
Only net-zero global emissions will allow global temperatures to stabilize, warned the scientists. Exceeding 1.5 °C will expose the planet to an unpredictable state of climate extremes and unprecedented stress to the ecosystem.
Agriculture, forestry and land management accounted for 13 to 21 percent of global anthropogenic GHG emissions from 2010 to 2019. It is believed that managed and natural ecosystems acted as carbon sinks in the same period, absorbing around one-third of all carbon dioxide emissions deriving from human activities.
According to the report, deforestation is declining but still accounts for 45 percent of all agriculture, forestry and land management emissions.
Researchers noted that these three sectors can provide between 20 and 30 percent of the global mitigation needed to reach the 1.5 °C or 2 °C limits by 2050.
Protection and restoration of forests, peatlands, coastal wetlands, savannas and grasslands are crucial in the mitigation effort.
Agriculture mitigation potential is enormous, with up to 4.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year coming from cropland and grassland soil carbon management, agroforestry, use of biochar, improved rice cultivation and livestock and nutrient management.
“When we consider the land, we also have to consider cities, which are getting larger and larger,” Mrabet said. “They are land, and they have multiple needs, like food. Vertical farms, which are now feasible, can help mitigate their impact.”
The report highlights how food systems account for approximately 23 to 42 percent of global GHG emissions and how they impact households’ carbon footprint even more than energy.
According to the report, food accounts for 48 to 70 percent of the total impact on water and land. As meat, dairy and processed food consumption rise, so does the households’ overall impact, given the high methane and nitrous oxide emissions connected to such food production.
As a result, the researchers believe that the whole food system, from production to consumption, should undergo profound changes to meet the climate targets.
The report explicitly asks for the implementation of plant-based diets, the reduction of food waste and building with wood, biochemicals and bio-textiles. Such strategies would reduce land needs, providing critical space for reforestation and restoration while also decreasing emissions that fuel rising temperatures.
“Emerging food technologies such as cellular fermentation, cultured meat, plant-based alternatives to animal-based food products, and controlled environment agriculture can substantially reduce direct GHG emissions from food production,” IPCC scientists wrote. “These technologies have lower land, water, and nutrient footprints and address concerns over animal welfare.”
The report highlights measures such as dietary guidelines sustained by food labels to encourage novel food systems, which the researchers believe should be mandatory as they empower citizens and increase awareness on relevant issues such as animal welfare and fair trade.
The continued loss of biodiversity makes ecosystems less resilient to climate change extremes, and this might hinder the progress of the agriculture, forestry and land management mitigation potentials, the report further warned.
“We need to work simultaneously on all sectors,” Mrabet said. “Agriculture and food, of course, but also transport, energy, building and so on. We have to change our behavior, the way we consume food and use energy. Our life should move towards becoming emissions-negative as opposite to the current emission-positive situation.”
Agriculture, forestry and land management mitigation strategies do not only apply to larger countries, noted the researchers, as many smaller countries and regions, particularly with wetlands, have disproportionately high levels of mitigation potential density from the three sectors.
According to Guterres, these findings and the other IPCC reports published since COP26 in Glasgow will pave the way for COP27, the following international summit on climate change that will take place next November in Egypt.
“I’m confident that these will be central to the climate talks, decision-making and action on a global, regional and national level,” he said.