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What is in this year’s IPCC report?

Each year, the IPCC (The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) releases an annual report relating to climate change to provide policymakers with up-to-date assessments on climate change, the current implications and any future risks that may arise as a result.

With this year’s UN Climate Change Summit coming up 23rd September 2019, this year’s report focuses on Climate Change and Land, including the risk of desertification and land degradation, the future of food security and the potential for sustainable land management. The report touches on those from previous years, including last year’s report on ‘Global Warming of 1.5C’, relating to current analyses showing that by acting now, the Earth’s population can halt the increase of global average temperatures by reducing carbon emissions within the next 12 years.

The report identifies that humans currently use one quarter to one-third of land’s potential net primary production for food production, growing timber and sourcing energy, and harvesting water. However, human use directly affects more than 70% of global ice-free land. Data that has been available to the IPCC since 1961 says that population growth and growing changes in consumption is putting pressure on the Earth’s land with rates of use being described as ‘unprecedented’.

The IPCC details figures of observed climate change and its effects on land, stating that ‘Since the pre-industrial period, the land surface air temperature has risen nearly twice as much as the global average temperature’. It is claimed that these observed changes have been the cause of current implications such as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather phenomenon, including longer heatwaves; reduced food and water security, had severe effects on biodiversity, as well as contributed to land degradation and desertification in different regions due to decreased precipitation.

However, it is the report’s focus on planned adaptation and mitigation and the facilitation of climate-adaptive developments that are becoming the ever-growing focus of the climate change movement and this year’s UN Climate Summit. The report outlines plans for sustainable land management and the reversal of land degradation but also identifies the challenges that come with this such as insecure land tenure and wealth disparity in the world’s communities. Due to the complexities of the challenges named by the report and the wide range of actors involved, the writers of the report, therefore, state that a mixture of policies, rather than a single global policy, would be the best way to approach and achieve sustainable land management.

Overall, the report’s identification of such a wide range of issues and actors, as well as the challenges that arise fit hand in hand with the UN Secretary General’s Action Portfolios, due to be highlighted at this year’s summit. The Action Portfolios have been created to ensure that actions taken are as impactful as possible in the current economic climate.  Actions include the mobilisation of both public and private sources of finance to drive decarbonisation in all sectors, accelerating the shift towards renewable energies, enforcing nature-based solutions such as afforestation, and just as the report outlines, increasing mitigation and resilience at urban and local levels, with priority aimed at the most vulnerable communities.

The IPCC and UN's aim to increase mitigation and resilience amongst communities is growing with action groups such as Extinction Rebellion becoming more prevalent today. However, will this year’s Climate Change Summit be the beginning of creating greater mitigation and adaptation of communities affected the most by land degradation? And will they be able to mobilise people beyond the climate change movement?

Cover: Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

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