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Landscapes

Working at the landscape level to protect tropical forests

Ellysar Baroudy's picture
 Nick Hall

This week in London, the Prince of Wales brought together representatives from government, the private sector, and civil society around the goal of protecting and restoring tropical forests. The gathering took stock of forest commitments made at the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit last September and identified priority actions for 2015 – a critical year for advancing progress on the inseparable issues of development, poverty, and climate change. 

With all eyes on a new climate agreement in Paris later this year, healthy forests and landscapes are seen as critical to cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero before 2100. The key underlying question is how to best achieve a true transformation in how we manage our forest landscapes, which are still degrading at a rapid rate. 

To get to net zero emissions, we need healthy landscapes

Rachel Kyte's picture
A project restoring degraded hillsides in China. Li Wenyong/World Bank

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that to rein in climate change and keep global warming under 2°C, we will have to start reducing emissions now and get to near net zero emissions within this century.

That won’t happen without healthy forests and soil storing carbon, and it won’t happen without climate-smart land-use practices that can keep carbon in the ground.

Together, agriculture, forestry and other land use changes account for about a quarter of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The sector can be a powerful source of emissions, but it is also a powerful carbon sink that can absorb carbon dioxide, providing a pathway to negative emissions. The IPCC authors estimate that with both supply-side and demand-side mitigation efforts – including reducing deforestation, protecting natural forests, restoring and planting forests, improving rice-growing techniques and other climate-smart agriculture methods, changing diets, and reducing the immense amount of global food waste – we can effectively reduce a large percentage of emissions from the sector and increase carbon storage to move the needle toward net zero.

Scaling up climate action – starting now

Rachel Kyte's picture
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COP20 Opening Sessions. UNFCCC Photo


Over the next few months, governments worldwide will be preparing their national contributions to our collective need to combat climate change. These plans will form the foundation of a new international climate agreement to be agreed in Paris in one year’s time. Collective ambition matters now more than ever. We all have a responsibility to make the choices that will lower the risks created by decades of greenhouse gas emissions and usher in an era of job-rich, more-inclusive, cleaner economic development.
 
Scientists have provided us with a remarkable consensus. We believe that with this evidence, we have the strong foundation for action. That’s good news, because climate action has to scale up now.
 
This week and next at the UN climate negotiations in Lima (COP20), there is a sense that gridlock may be easing. The U.S. and China – the world's two largest emitters – set a strong pace last month when Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping stood together and jointly announced their top-line commitments for cutting emissions. Their pledges, along with commitments from the European Union and donor support for the Green Climate Fund, auger well for the Lima talks. But this was always billed as the finance COP, and how we finance the transition to deep decarbonization and lasting resilience requires a coming together that has eluded us to date.

Living Landscapes: Solutions for a Sustainable World

Peter Dewees's picture

Photo: Mduduzi Duncan Dlamini, Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Kingdom of Swaziland, providing the closing keynote for Agriculture, Landscapes and Livelihoods Day.

The final rounds of Forests Day and Agriculture Day wrapped up at the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha this week under a new shared banner: Living Landscapes Days.

Both Days have become annual events on the sidelines of the UN climate change conferences, meant to bring together scientists and policy makers and, originally, to bring forests and farming onto the Conference of Parties (COP) agenda. Forests have largely achieved this objective with the the emergence of various agreements about REDD+.

Agriculture has slipped down the list of priority issues tackled by the COP, which has been struggling to figure out what to do about extending the Kyoto agreements and a range of other issues, but is certain to re-emerge. The agriculture discussions this week at Doha aimed to identify scalable solutions to specific mitigation and adaptation challenges which can benefit farmers; gaps where there are limited existing solutions or limited available knowledge; and potential trade-offs in implementing existing, known solutions.

This year, the two worked together to build on the themes of climate-smart agriculture, which became prominent in Durban in the last COP: farming which builds soil carbon, increasing food security, and enhancing resilience to climate shocks.