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Nature could cost-effectively[i] deliver over a third (37%) of global greenhouse gas emissions reductions required by 2030 to prevent dangerous climate change, according to a new study[ii] by The Nature Conservancy and scientists from 15 other institutions[iii] published today. This is equivalent to the effect of a complete end to the burning of oil, worldwide.
With global leaders set to attend UN climate talks (COP23) next month in Bonn, Germany, the study found that natural climate solutions such as planting more trees, improving fire management and soil health, and protecting mangroves could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 11.3 billion tonnes per year by 2030.
“In Australia, The Nature Conservancy has already supported Indigenous savanna burning projects to deliver a reduction in emissions of 8.8 million tonnes by 2025” said Rich Gilmore, Country Director for The Nature Conservancy in Australia. “If we could realise the full potential of indigenous savanna burning projects across northern Australia, we could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 55 million tonnes by 2030 –equivalent to taking 12 million cars off the road.”
Reforestation, particularly of marginal farmland, and allowing natural regeneration of recently cleared country could also make a significant contribution to reducing Australia’s emissions and improving biodiversity[iv]. Optimising grazing practices for livestock and better management of Australia’s existing forests could cost-effectively cut Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions by another 8%.
Investing in nature and changing the way we manage land has huge potential, alongside clean energy and clean transport, to reduce Australia’s net greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian Government’s Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) and Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) have successfully created one of the highest quality, best regulated carbon offset programs in the world.
“It is imperative that Government continues and expands its policies and programs that support natural climate solutions, allowing both public and private sector investment in their long-term future”, said Gilmore.
Christiana Figueres, convener of Mission 2020 and former head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Land use is a key sector where we can both reduce emissions and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. This new study shows how we can massively increase action on land use – in tandem with increased action on energy, transport, finance, industry and infrastructure – to put emissions on their downward trajectory by 2020. Natural climate solutions are vital to ensuring we achieve our ultimate objective of full decarbonisation and can simultaneously boost jobs and protect communities in developed and developing countries.”
[i] Cost-effective climate solutions are solutions that can be delivered at less than $100 per tonne of CO2e.
[ii] The peer-reviewed study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expanded and refined the scope of land-based climate solutions previously assessed by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). The findings are expected to bolster efforts to ensure that large scale protection, restoration, and improved land management practices needed to stabilize climate change are achieved while meeting the demand for food and fibre from global lands.
[iii] Including, in Australia, the CSIRO.
[iv] If 25.37 million hectares (just 3.3% of Australia) of formerly cleared forested land was restored, excluding established plantations, mangroves and peatlands (the mitigation potential for those areas were included in other pathways within the study), natural regeneration and reforestation on croplands, Australia’s emissions would be reduced by almost a quarter.