The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish a special report on Thursday. In focus: climate change and land use. But the report could also contain a sharp warning to the world’s population.
GenevaAround 820 million people worldwide are undernourished. On the other hand, there is very high meat consumption that uses up a lot of land and a lot of food is simply thrown away. Providing the growing world population with adequate food in an equitable manner is a daunting challenge – and it is getting worse with climate change. Agriculture needs land, but at the same time many forests are necessary because they store the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. “Food security and the protection of forests should be non-negotiable,” says Charlotte Streck, co-founder of the think tank Climate Focus. A contradiction?
No, says Streck, the either-or game bothers them. Both are possible. From their point of view the most important levers: reduce meat consumption and accelerate the phase-out from fossil fuels. “Beef is particularly resource-intensive. It takes 20 times as much land and produces 20 times as many greenhouse gases per gram of edible protein than vegetable proteins, for example from beans, peas or lentils, ”explains Streck. And land is a limited resource. In addition, according to the World Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, a third of all food is thrown away worldwide.
In all likelihood, these facts will also be made clear in the special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will be published in Geneva on Thursday and which will primarily deal with land use and climate change.
In Germany, shortly before the publication of the special report, there is a discussion about whether meat should be taxed higher in future. The Greens expert Friedrich Ostendorff spoke out in favor of an increase in VAT from 7 to 19 percent, criticism came from farmers and consumer advocates. The federal government reacted cautiously. The German Animal Welfare Association brought up the topic. As the Federal Statistical Office announced on Wednesday, slaughterhouses in Germany produced 2.6 percent less meat in the first half of the current year. According to the statistics bureau, 29.4 million pigs, cattle, sheep, goats and horses were slaughtered in the first six months of the year.
Despite this small success for climate protectors in Germany: The IPCC special report could contain a sharp warning to the world population, politics and the economy. “At a time when we can least afford it, we are losing fertile soil and biological diversity at an alarming rate,” said the managing director of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), Inger Andersen, on Friday at the opening of the multi-day event IPCC meeting. “We have to adapt the use of our land to climate change so that we can secure food production for present and future generations.”
A large international team of researchers has carried out a very extensive analysis of the current global level of knowledge on these topics for the IPCC in recent years. Since Friday, delegates from the IPCC member countries have been meeting in Geneva to discuss the summary of the analysis. The IPCC plans to present the resulting report on Thursday. The one-week procedure is intended to ensure that the IPCC special report is also recognized by the member countries.
Expert Streck already sees the fact that the role of forests and agriculture is being discussed as a great success. “The topic affects us directly, we see burning forests, a lot of pest infestation. The forest quality is also going downhill for us, ”says Streck, who believes that there is a lot of potential for phasing out fossil fuels.
“The climate models are getting wilder and wilder if we stick to fossil fuels and have to designate more and more reforestation areas as compensation.” An end to fossil fuels would therefore take a lot of pressure off the debate about possible land conflicts. According to the latest IPCC report on the 1.5 degree target, global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would have to fall by 45 percent between 2010 and 2030 and reach zero in 2050.
In addition to sustainable land management, topics such as droughts, desertification, heat waves and floods will play a role in the report. The chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Hoesung Lee, emphasized last Friday above all the symbolic effect on the public that the report could send. “I hope that we can raise people’s awareness of the dangers and challenges that climate change poses for the land we live on and that feed us.”
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