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NEWS: IPCC Climate Change and Land Report: CDKN response


Fair and inclusive governance, local and indigenous knowledge offer solutions for sustainable stewardship of land – according to the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land. CDKN responds with some practical ideas.

Today, the Climate and Development Knowledge Network welcomes the launch of the Special Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Climate Change and Land: a report on “climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.”

The report emphasises that land is under great – and increasing – pressure from human activities. Unsustainable management leads directly to land degradation, releases more greenhouse gases from soils and reduces the storage of carbon, methane and other gases, and drives our atmosphere’s warming trend.   In total, agriculture, land use and land use change through human activity contributes a 23% share of global warming.

Land has vast potential to provide solutions to global warming: by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, locking up carbon, methane and other greenhouse gases in soils, through a wide range of sustainable land stewardship practices. These practices also support societies’ ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change, by creating many benefits including reduced erosion, enhanced soil fertility and biodiversity, and more secure and diverse livelihoods.

As well as providing natural solutions to climate change, land must also cater to the needs of a burgeoning global population that requires food, housing and amenities.

What this means is that land cannot “do it all” according to IPCC Co-Chairs Valerie Masson Delmotte and Panmao Zhai.

For instance, intensive use of land to produce biofuels will come into conflict with these other uses. The faster and earlier society mitigates climate change using methods that are not land-hungry, the more we will alleviate the pressure on land.

That means putting more effort into measures with little land footprint. These could include low-emission energy sources such as rooftop solar, etc., and demand-side changes such as energy efficiency, reduced food waste and more sustainable consumption habits.

“The IPCC’s Special Report highlights growing competition for Earth’s scarce land and water resources,” said Dr Shehnaaz Moosa, CDKN Director. “It will take enlightened governments that have holistic visions, and are willing to work across political boundaries, to make effective and fair decisions on meeting society’s competing needs for land to deliver freshwater, energy and food and society’s other needs in a changing climate.”

One of the notable features of this IPCC report is its onus on local and indigenous knowledge. The report states that: “The effectiveness of decision-making and governance is enhanced by the involvement of local stakeholders (particularly those most vulnerable to climate change including indigenous peoples and local communities, women, and the poor and marginalised ).”

The report finds that indigenous and local knowledge has enabled people to adapt with ingenuity to harsh and changing conditions—such as in dryland environments. In many cases, the marriage of modern scientific methods and new technologies with indigenous knowledge has created appropriate sustainable development solutions in such areas.

In one such example, the Weather and Climate Information Services for Africa – WISER, has been demonstrating how a fusion of local knowledge with the expertise of meteorologists in East Africa – in what they call a ‘co-production’ approach – is making weather and climate services far more relevant and usable for local people. They are demonstrating how communities are working with scientists to understand the impacts and implications of climate and weather information to help save lives and livelihoods. (More detail in the WISER webinar here.)

In another example: rapid urbanisation is a source of land degradation and land conversion, with negative impacts on the local and global climate. CDKN and its partners in South Asia have piloted and are sharing knowledge on how urban and peri-urban agriculture and forestry can simultaneously:  meet people’s needs for food, boost climate resilience (through increased infiltration of soils and less water run-off), mitigate climate change (by increased vegetative cover and decreased food miles) and contribute to multi-purpose uses of land. Read these stories from northern India and Sri Lanka for more.

“ The IPCC’s Special Report illuminates how much we will rely both on fair, inclusive and participatory ways to govern our land; and also on the fusion of indigenous knowledge of local contexts with scientific understanding of the current and future climate, to guide wise decision-making,” said Dr Moosa

“This doesn’t mean doing things the way they have always been done, but learning together, smarter and faster, to adapt to and shape our environment toward a more sustainable future,” she added.

“The IPCC says there is an role for rapid ‘knowledge transfer’ as people learn about effective responses to climate change. ‘Knowledge transfer’ and reflective learning among peers is exactly what CDKN seeks to catalyse through its work.”


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