Climate Change

Transforming land use can make world carbon neutral by 2040: Study

Immediate measures on agriculture, forestry, wetlands and bioenergy can cut down a third of the emissions to keep temperatures below 1.5°C

By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Thursday 24 October 2019
land use. Photo: Getty Images

Transforming use of forests, farms and food systems can help countries to make land sector carbon neutral by 2040, and also restrain global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to a study.

Currently, the land sector contributes about 25 per cent of global emissions [11 gigatonne carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCO2e) per year].

Taking precedence to act on land use can help cut down a third of the emissions needed to achieve the goal of keeping temperatures below 1.5°C as set out in the Paris Agreement, according to the study published in the journal NatureThis is additional to the 30 per cent of carbon emissions that land already sequesters naturally.

A team of researchers from the Austria-based non-profit International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), assessed 24 land management practices that offer the most mitigation potential along with other social and environmental benefits and developed a new roadmap on tranforming the land sector.

They identified six priority actions areas:

  • Reducing deforestation, peatland drainage and burning, and mangrove conversion by 70 per cent by 2030
  • Restoring forests, drained peatlands, and coastal mangroves
  • Improving forest management and agroforestry
  • Enhancing soil carbon sequestration in agriculture across all agricultural countries
  • Reducing consumer food waste in developed and emerging countries
  • Shifting one in five people to primarily plant-based diets by 2030

“The roadmap foresees a phased approach where first actions to avoid emissions are prioritised. This means concentrating on avoiding deforestation in hotspot geographies such as Brazil and Indonesia. More high-tech options on carbon removal from the atmosphere need to be tested and piloted today,” said Michael Obersteiner, programme researcher at the IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management (ESM) and one of the study authors.

Implementing the roadmap can make the land sector carbon neutral by 2040 and a net carbon sink of about three GtCO2 per year by 2050.

“Together, these actions will mitigate 15 GtCO2e per year — about 50 per cent from reducing emissions and 50 per cent from additional carbon uptake by land,” the researchers said.

Besides, “there is also a need to develop additional negative emissions technologies — like direct air capture and low-impact bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) — to sustainably remove more carbon from the atmosphere in the future,” according to lead author Stephanie Roe, environmental scientist at the University of Virginia.

Limiting the planet under 2°C will require us to halve emissions every decade, and also remove a huge amount of CO2 that is already in the atmosphere, Roe said. In 2018the world emitted about 40 billion metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

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