Czech experts: UN climate change report calls on planet to eat less meat, implement sustainable land use

Foto: N. Müller, Pixabay / CC0

Keeping global warming well below the 2º Celsius target can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including land and food, according to a new United Nations report. Among other things, it outlines dire warnings about the effects of global eating habits and farming practices.

Photo: N. Müller, Pixabay
Climatologist Radim Tolasz was the sole Czech representative at the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change meeting in Geneva this week. Via a live feed to the Prague headquarters of the UN immediately after the release of the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land, he summarised its basic findings.

“Specifically, the report analyses the practical implications of what people choose to eat and drink, and how we make use of the land… And what we must do in terms of farming, as well as land and forestry management, in order to help make life on this warming planet sustainable.”

The IPCC says agriculture, forestry and other land use account for 23 percent of human-made greenhouse gases. Agriculture alone is responsible for 44 percent of methane gas emissions, a major contributor to the “greenhouse effect” and therefore global warming.

Tolasz noted that eating less meat would help reduce levels of methane gas produced by livestock. It is in part for this reason that the IPCC report recommends a diet far heavier on fruits, vegetables and legumes.

According to the IPCC report, sustainable land management must include water retention measures and peatland recovery. Ecologist Vojtěch Kotecký of the local think-tank Glopolis said he hoped the UN report would spur the Czech government into action, arguing that a number of important steps could be taken almost immediately.

“There are practical things that the state could do even tomorrow. An anti-soil erosion decree was drawn up already two years ago and really could be signed tomorrow. That would make a major difference in keeping biomass within the soil.

Vojtěch Kotecký, photo: ČTK/Ondřej Deml
“As for agriculture, the state should not leave decisions about what is grown solely to the private owners who control roughly half the country’s land. The state must be proactive in terms of sustainability and responsible when handing out subsidies.”

A platform of Czech NGOs called the Climate Coalition notes that the global food system is dangerously reliant on just four crops – corn, rice, wheat and soybean. These crops now account for over 60 percent of harvests but increased temperatures from climate change are already reducing their yields.

Timely and thorough action is needed, climatologist Radim Tolasz said, to ensure the world’s fast-growing population can be fed. He noted with irony that while an alarming number of people are at risk of starvation far more on our planet struggle with obesity.

Under the Paris Agreement, the Czech Republic has pledged to lower greenhouse emissions by 40 percent by 2030. The country is the fifth-biggest polluter in Europe and the 20th biggest in the world in terms of CO2 emissions. Keeping global warming well below the 2ºCelsius target can be achieved only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including land and food, according to the IPCC’s ‘Special Report on Climate Change and Land’.