More nature to reduce CO2 emissions by 37%

Better land management could play a more important role in the fight against climate change.

Better land management could play a more important role in combating climate change than previously thought, according to a comprehensive assessment of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and stored in forests, croplands, pastures and wetlands using natural climate solutions.

The peer-reviewed study, led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions, and published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, broadened and refined the scope of land-based climate solutions previously evaluated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The findings are expected to encourage efforts to ensure that the protective, restoration and improvement practices of large-scale land management necessary to stabilize climate change while meeting the food and fiber demand of the earth are met globally.

Taking into account cost constraints, the researchers calculated that natural climate solutions could reduce emissions by 11.3 billion tons per year by 2030, which is equivalent to stopping the burning of oil and 37% of the emission reductions necessary to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2030.

Without cost constraints, natural climate solutions could generate emission reductions of 23,800 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent per year, about one third (30%) more than the previous estimates.

A solution for climate change

The Nature Conservancy’s CEO, Mark Tercek, says that at present, impacts on the earth cause a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions.

“The way we manage land in the future could provide 37% of the solution to climate change,” he explains. If we take climate change seriously, we will have to take investment in nature seriously, as well as clean energy and clean transport. We are going to have to increase food and wood production to meet the demand for population growth, but we know we must do it in a way that addresses climate change. ”

The 2020 Mission Coordinator, Christiana Figueres, and former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), adds that the use of land is a “key” sector in which It can reduce emissions and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. “This new study shows us how we can massively increase actions on land use, along with more action on energy, transport, finance, industry and infrastructure, to put emissions on their downward trajectory in 2020”, he adds.

In her view, natural climate solutions are “vital” to ensure that the final goal of complete decarbonization is achieved, and can at the same time boost jobs and protect communities in developed and developing countries.

More trees against global warming

According to FAO, 3,900 million hectares or 30.6% of the total land area are forests. The scientists found that trees have the greatest potential to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions because they absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, eliminating it from the atmosphere.

The results of the study indicate that the three largest options for increasing the number and size of trees (reforestation, avoiding forest loss and better forest practices) could cost-effectively remove 7 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, which is equivalent to eliminating 1,500 million cars that burn gasoline on the roads.

Restoring forests on previously forested lands and avoiding the further loss of global forests are the two biggest opportunities. Success depends in large part on better forestry and agricultural practices, particularly those that reduce the amount of land used by livestock. Decreasing the footprint of livestock would liberate vast areas around the world for trees and can be achieved while protecting food security.

Meanwhile, improving forest practices in existing forests and expanding them can produce more wood fiber by storing more carbon, maintaining biodiversity and helping clean up air and water. The researchers found that the top five countries where forests could further reduce emissions are Brazil, Indonesia, China, Russia and India.

According to the FAO, agricultural land covers 11% of the world’s surface, and changing the way we farm it could provide a profitable 22% of the emission reductions according to the study, which is equivalent to removing from the road 522 million gasoline cars.

For example, a smarter application of chemical fertilizers (Cropland Nutrient Management) improved crop yields while reducing emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Other effective interventions include planting trees between croplands and better management.