An action plan to make the land sector carbon neutral by 2040

Posted on

Protecting forests, planting trees, reducing food waste and changing diets critical to cool, liveable planet; the US, the EU, China and Brazil among countries that can lead on efforts to slash land sector emissions. The results of a study recently published on Nature Climate Change, with the contribution of the CMCC Foundation.

Source: adapted from a press release produced by Burness for the Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA).

A study published in Nature Climate Change unveils a land sector roadmap laying out critical actions on forests, farming and food systems the world should take to veer away from spiking global temperatures. The study is the first of its kind to explore the contribution of the land sector to the 1.5°C target while offering a point-by-point identification of specific land use actions, their related geographies and implementation pathways to reduce land use emissions by 50% per decade between 2020 and 2050. The roadmap will also contribute to climate adaptation and sustainable development goals.

The study led by Stephanie Roe from the University of Virginia and Climate Focus and co-authored by Laurent Drouet, researcher at the CMCC SEME – Sustainable Earth Modelling Economics Division and senior scientist at the RFF-CMCC European Institute on Economics and the Environment – EIEE, examined climate models and assessed 24 land management practices that offer the most mitigation potential and other social and environmental benefits. They then mapped out priority actions countries could take to zero out emissions from the land sector by 2040 to limit global temperatures from spiking beyond 1.5°C. The six priority actions outlined in the study include reducing deforestation; restoring forests, drained peatlands and coastal mangroves, particularly in tropical countries; improving forest management and agroforestry; enhancing soil carbon sequestration in agriculture; reducing consumer food waste in developed and emerging countries; shifting one in five people to primarily plant-based diets by 2030.

The research underlines that sustainable land management could contribute 30% of the mitigation needed to achieve Paris Agreement goals of keeping temperatures below 1.5°C. This is on top of the 30% of carbon emissions that land already sequesters naturally. Land is the only solution that reduces emissions and improves biodiversity, water and air quality, food security and livelihoods. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors of the economy is critical, but land-based actions impact our lives in so many other ways. However, the authors highlight that the window of opportunity is getting smaller: the longer we delay action, the lower our chances of achieving Paris Agreement goals, and the higher the burden we put on our natural and food systems.

If countries were to implement the roadmap, the land sector (land use change, agriculture and bioenergy) could become carbon neutral by 2040 and a net carbon sink by 2050. Right now, the land sector emits about 11 GtCO2e per year (about 25% of global emissions); with this roadmap, it will be a net carbon sink of about three GtCO2 per year by 2050. Together, these actions would mitigate 15 GtCO2e per year, about 50% from reducing emissions and 50% from additional carbon uptake by land. While the study’s authors stress that countries worldwide can contribute to better land management, they conclude that actions in the US, the EU, Canada, China, Russia, Australia, Argentina, India, Brazil and other tropical are particularly important due to their large mitigation potentials countries are particularly important due to their large mitigation potentials.

Going beyond similar climate roadmaps focused strictly on climate benefits, this report identifies actions that deliver wins beyond greenhouse gas emissions cuts and removals. These include economic, environmental, social, health, food security and other benefits that would contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The report builds on and updates the IPCC land report, which argued that forest destruction, bad farming and unsustainable diets, in addition to fossil fuels, must be tackled together to avoid climate chaos. 

Roe S, Streck C, Obersteiner M, Frank S, Griscom B, Drouet L, Fricko O, Gusti M, (2019). Contribution of the land sector to a 1.5 °C world.  Nature Climate Change DOI: 10.1038/s41558-019-0591-9

Start typing and press Enter to search

Shopping Cart