Stop deforestation and reduce meat production, advises IPCC land report

8 August 2019

The IPCC land report says we need to protect land to tackle climate change

The IPCC land report says we need to protect land to tackle climate change.

The way humans are treating land is driving climate change and threatening the world’s poorest people, according to a new report from UN scientists.

The report – released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – says that we need to stop chopping down forests and reduce the amount of land we use for producing meat in order to prevent dangerous temperature rises from pushing millions into poverty.

The scientists also warn that intensive farming techniques are damaging soil, making it more difficult to grow food and reducing the ability of soil itself to absorb the carbon dioxide which is driving climate change.

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‘Poorest paying the price for misuse of land’

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at CAFOD, said:

“This is a critical and valuable report which says what the world’s poorest people have been telling us for years: that they are the ones paying the greatest price for systems of food production built around the needs of big business, regardless of whether it costs the earth."

What does the IPCC land report say?

The report contains good news and bad news.

Chopping down forests for land to produce meat and damaging the soil through intensive farming is adding to the greenhouse gases which are driving climate change.

This is hitting poor communities the most, increasing the risk that people will struggle to grow enough to eat or that shortages will lead to price rises and make food too expensive.

But the scientists say that if we act urgently, the way we treat the land can actually help to tackle climate change.

This would include protecting and restoring forests, reducing the amount of meat we eat and helping farmers to grow food more sustainably.

What can we do to protect land and people?

Graham Gordon said:

“For us as consumers, the report is a chance for us to think about what we eat and where our food comes from, and how this can be a way we can help to care for our common home.”

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at CAFOD

Major reports such as this provide a wake-up call and must drive us to urgent action.

"For the UK government, that includes shifting aid money away from big agricultural companies and instead directly supporting farmers in the poorest communities – those who can produce the greatest amount of food to feed themselves in a way that protects and restores the environment.

“For us as consumers, the report is a chance for us to think about what we eat and where our food comes from, and how this can be a way we can help to care for our common home.” 

How does eating meat cause climate change?

Producing meat, especially in intensive and industrialised farming, emits more greenhouse gases than foods such as fruit, vegetables and grains.

Greenhouse gases, including methane, are emitted by animals themselves.

Rearing livestock for food also requires the use of large areas of land to grow the plants for animals to eat. This often leads to deforestation and damage to soil, meaning that there are fewer trees and poorer soil for soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Growing crops for humans to eat, however, requires a smaller amount of land. This means that more people can be fed and more land can be used for forests and other ‘carbon sinks’, such as peatlands.

See how you can live simply and sustainably 

How do trees help to tackle climate change?

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, helping to reduce the amount of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which are heating the planet.

This is one of the reasons why Pope Francis has referred to rainforests as the “lungs of our planet”.

The IPCC report says that governments must act to stop deforestation and should help to restore forests which have been damaged and destroyed.

This echoes advice from the Committee on Climate Change to the UK government that more trees should be planted in Britain to help to reduce the country’s emissions to ‘net zero’.

Ask the Prime Minister to put in place policies to reach net zero

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