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Climate change report urges better use of land to fight hunger

09 August 2019


Elephants at the Alue Kuyun Conservation Response Unit in Meulaboh, Aceh province, in Indonesia. Sumatran elephants are a critically endangered species: only about 500 remain in Aceh

Elephants at the Alue Kuyun Conservation Response Unit in Meulaboh, Aceh province, in Indonesia. Sumatran elephants are a critically endangered specie...

A NEW report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggests that, to tackle climate change and reduce global hunger, humans need to improve the way in which land is used.

A leaked draft of the special report on Climate Change and Land, which was published yesterday, provides evidence that it is vital to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to prevent the spread of food insecurity.

Currently, industrial agriculture and the food industry are almost as big a driver of climate change as fossil fuels, responsible for up to 30 per cent of total emissions and more than half our emissions of methane: a potent greenhouse gas generated by livestock.

The report says that the way in which we treat land can either help or harm the climate. Humans are driving deforestation, eradicating animals and plants at an alarming rate, and accelerating climate change. The IPCC authors say that changes need to be made to reverse this trend, such as eating less beef; restoring peatlands, which can act as carbon stores; and adopting farming practices that work with nature rather than forcing production with fertilisers.

ISTOCKSimmental cattle, pictured in 2016

Holly-Anna Petersen, of Christian Climate Action, the Christian arm of the protest group Extinction Rebellion, said that the findings were a wake-up call. “Every report which comes out from the IPCC paints an increasingly bleak picture of the state of our world. Young people are pleading for us to act, because it is their futures which are at stake.”

It would be a spur for the next significant Extinction Rebellion protest planned for London from 7 October. Ms Petersen said: “Church groups are set to play a vital role in this ‘October Uprising’ — it is going to be a space where prayer is interwoven with action.”

Elsewhere, the Church of England’s investment managers, CCLA, have announced that, from December 2019, the COIF Charities Ethical Investment Fund will restrict investment in companies that generate more than ten per cent of their revenue from fossil fuels.

James Buchanan, of the campaign group Operation Noah, said: “It is wonderful news that CCLA has decided to create a fossil-free fund. This offers a great opportunity to local churches and dioceses to act prophetically by shifting their investments out of the problem and into the solution.”

Paul Cook, the head of advocacy at Tearfund, said on Thursday that the IPCC report reiterated that "radical change"  in food-production methods was needed to tackle climate change if the 1.5ºC goal of the Paris Agreement was to be met.

"We can improve how we manage our land by stopping mass deforestation; restoring precious ecosystems like peatlands and wetlands that store carbon; changing our diet to be more plant based; reducing food waste; and supporting agriculture that conserves soil and water while building resilient food sources and incomes.

“The climate crisis is hitting those in poverty the hardest and the way we continue to use land will be integral to halting this worldwide catastrophe."

Joe Ware is a journalist and writer for Christian Aid.

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