Australia's dryland agriculture. A spectacular sight but surely intensive. Credit: Wakx http://www.flickr.com/photos/wak1/

Landscapes to reboot international climate deals

2 November, 2013, NSJ

Exploiting forests solely as a carbon vehicle misses the big picture, says COP negotiator

WARSAW, Poland —-Negotiators at the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) in Warsaw, Poland, in two weeks (November 16-17) are hopeful they can advance the difficult discussions being made leading to an international deal on how to manage climate change.

The GLF — held in parallel with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) — proposes a ‘landscapes’ approach to resolve the central dilemma confronting humanity today: How can we produce enough food for 9 billion people by 2050 without destroying Earth’s forests and accelerating climate change?

Tony La Viña, a forestry expert and U.N. climate negotiator for the Philippines, says that treating trees just as a source of carbon is not the answer: “If forests are seen solely as a carbon vehicle, this might be good for climate change, but it’s actually bad for communities, forests and biodiversity,” he says.

“We need to use a more holistic approach which takes into account the role and interaction of different components of the landscape, including forests and agriculture.”

Forests and trees are an important part of the healthy ecosystem on which agricultural production depends — forests supply an estimated 75% of usable water globally. But forests face growing challenges from demographic trends.

A projected global population of 9 billion by 2050 will increase the already high rates of deforestation in tropical regions, exacerbating threats to health and propelling climate change: Land-use activities account for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Anette Engelund Friis, climate expert with the World Farmers Organization, says agriculture alone contributes an estimated 10 to 15 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The time has come to put agriculture at the center of U.N. climate talks.

“Agriculture has a potential for mitigation, but it has always been a political issue,” Engelund Friis says. “That‘s why a workshop in Warsaw is important, to allow negotiators to discuss the complexities of agriculture.”

The time has come to put agriculture at the center of U.N. climate talks, Friis says, adding that the world needs to take a coherent approach to agriculture.

“It’s clear that adaptation and building resilience is crucial for the agriculture sector and for food security,” she says.

More than 350 UN climate negotiators are expected to attend the Global Landscapes Forum, which will bring together more than 1,000 people from forestry, farming and other land-based sectors to exchange ideas.

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