Radical transformation of land use necessary to combat climate crisis | WWF

Radical transformation of land use necessary to combat climate crisis

Posted on 01 August 2019
Farmer Planting
A farmer planting rice in a padi field, Paro, Bhutan.
© James Morgan / WWF-US

GLAND, Switzerland (1 August 2019) - On the eve of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 50th Session, where its Special Report on Climate Change and Land is due to be approved, WWF urgently calls on governments to recognize that without radical transformation of our land use and food systems, we won’t be able to prevent the climate crisis. Currently, agriculture, forestry and other land uses contribute around a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. 


The IPCC will release its special report on the relationship between climate change and land on 8 August. This should provide a robust and integrated assessment of how action in the land sector can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


Dr Stephen Cornelius, WWF’s chief advisor on climate change and IPCC lead, said: “We need to see an urgent transformation in how we use land in the future. This includes the type of farming we do, our food system and diets, and the conservation of areas such as forests and other natural ecosystems.  All of which can either help or hinder the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This new report should bring this home to us.”


Science must be the basis for ambition. This report will give countries the latest scientific and policy-relevant information to inform them on how they can increase their climate action pledges required in terms of the Paris Agreement. Land-related initiatives (be these around reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation or improving farming practices) currently provide up to a quarter of pledged climate actions to 2030, and their potential is much greater still. WWF calls on governments to adopt an integrated approach for dealing with land-based emissions and removals. 


“Good land-use choices are central to tackling the climate crisis. We must see a rapid shift in how we manage our land, alongside the necessary deep cuts to fossil fuel emissions, if we are to meet the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement,” said Cornelius.

A system-wide move to sustainable land management and nature-based solutions is critical to securing a climate-safe future, while also contributing to other societal goals, such as halting nature loss and delivering food security.

The report should also highlight the fact that the climate and biodiversity crises are interlinked. Specific interventions can also provide important additional benefits to people and nature, including restoring crucial ecosystem services and providing resilience to climate change.


Given this, the report needs to be clear on four points, says Cornelius:

  • Land and climate interact with each other.  The way we use land is driving the climate crisis, adding stress to land systems and so worsens existing risks to people and nature – for example through land degradation and food security.

  • That current human demands on land are huge and unsustainable. Business-as-usual is not an option as the pressures on the land will only increase unless we change how we use it.

  • Action on farming and forests is not an excuse for inaction on energy. All sectors must contribute to limit global warming to 1.5°C.
  • We have hard choices to make on how land is used. Good choices can help mitigate climate change and improve climate resilience, while producing other benefits, such as improving food security and protecting nature.
Farmer Planting
A farmer planting rice in a padi field, Paro, Bhutan.
© James Morgan / WWF-US Enlarge
Farmers, Vegetables, Sweet Potato
Pak Godi, a smallholder farmer who is affilaited with Musim Mas via their KKPA smallholder scheme shows harvested palm fruit. Riau, Sumatra. The small oil palm farmers, who belong to a smallholder collective affiliated with Musim Mas, are currently working toward RSPO certification.
© James Morgan / WWF-International Enlarge
Farmer, Food, Weather
Somewhere along Dawei road, smoke arises from a man-made wildfire in a forest that is supposed to clean up the land for replacement plantation most commonly with betal-nut or rubber, near Wah-Taw village.
© Minzayar Oo / WWF-Myanmar Enlarge