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The IPCC Climate Change and Land report was published in Geneva on Thursday morning

IPCC calls for land protection strategies as key to feeding growing global population and combating climate change

Thursday 8 August 2019

On behalf of the Government of Spain, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition formed part of the international team of representatives that approved this report commissioned in 2016 by the countries from the highest international body for climate change science due to increasing concerns over the condition of land, which has gone from being a major carbon sink to the source of almost one-quarter of global emissions. 

Drafted by 103 scientists from 52 countries, including three Spanish researchers, the scientific report calls for a transformational shift in the way land is used in order to avoid highly significant impacts on food security, public health and worsening climate change. The authors stress that proper management of this resource, the exploitation of which has accelerated in recent decades, is key to curbing the loss of biodiversity, avoiding soil degradation and food insecurity, and stopping desertification processes, to which Spain is especially vulnerable. They add that all these phenomena are being aggravated by the impacts of climate change already observed. 

The scientists also provide evidence that strategies for making better use of the land will help adapt to and offset the most harmful effects of climate change.  The IPCC report therefore calls for the appropriate design of governance policies and systems at all levels to transform land uses and the current food system, including measures to curb food waste and foster shifts towards more sustainable diets and consumption patterns. This is the only way it will be possible to guarantee access to food and achieve the net zero emissions target by the middle of this century. 

Urgent and long-term measures

The researchers believe short-term measures based on existing scientific knowledge are possible for tackling these challenges while also developing longer term measures enabling adaptation to climate change and mitigation of global warming. They consider that policies capable of jointly dealing with climate change and land use in a coherent manner will save resources and contribute to greater social resilience.

In contrast, delaying the implementation of such measures will lead to greater social and economic impacts, especially in terms of food security and ecosystem degradation, according to the report. 

Among other possible responses for tackling these challenges, the authors of the report highlight sustainable forest management, the conservation of biodiversity and restoring degraded ecosystems, sustainable food production and disaster risk management. They say that the options available for tackling these challenges depend on the geographical context and region, and are often multipurpose because they tackle several challenges simultaneously.

Furthermore, the report explains that integrated supply and demand management models in the food chain in combination with shifts towards more healthy and vegetable-rich diets, the consumption of local and seasonal produce, and reduced food waste and loss, will also make an effective contribution to adapting to and offsetting climate change while reducing the pressures on our land.

"The IPCC is once again offering the best and latest scientific information available so that authorities and business sectors can adopt informed measures and policies for curbing climate change. And, once again, the international scientific community is sending a clear message of urgency: we need to guarantee sustainable land use in the short term. Our country cannot ignore this inevitable process of transformation because we are a country that is vulnerable to climate change and its associated phenomena", explained the Acting Minister for the Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera.

"This message from the scientific community must be translated into measures at all levels of public authority and in all sectors tied to land use. Making a commitment to genuinely sustainable land use management is essential for tackling the challenges that particularly affect Spain, such as the risk of desertification, erosion and the loss of biodiversity. Furthermore, these actions lead to social and economic benefits in the short term, encouraging sustainable development and settling people in our rural environments", she added.

Second special report from the IPCC 

This is the second special report drafted by the IPCC during its current assessment cycle, which is the sixth since it was set up. The first, presented in South Korea in October, analysed the impacts of 1.5ºC of global warming when compared with pre-industrial levels and the corresponding pathways that global greenhouse gas emissions should follow.

In this study, the authors reached a conclusion on the need for an unprecedented transformation to prevent the global temperature increase from rising above that threshold and that current emissions reduction commitments are insufficient. The IPCC is expected to publish a third report within the next few weeks on the oceans and cryosphere in a changing climate.

The conclusions from these three reports are essential to Spain for several reasons. Spain is a country with limited water resources of a vulnerable nature to climate change; more than two-thirds of Spain is at risk of desertification; and Spain has approximately 8,000 kilometres of coastline facing the risk posed by rising sea levels and extreme events.

Non official translation