Development group warns against misinterpretation of UN climate report

By Abbie Wells On 08.08.2019 Climate change

The IPCC special report on Climate Change and Land has bigger and more important things to say than simply suggesting that we eat less meat and more plant based foods. While this has been the issue focused on in many news reports, international development group, Practical Action says that the bigger issue is our overall approach to the use of the earth’s resources.

With regard to land use and the reciprocal link to climate, the IPCC’s report perfectly chimes with the development approaches that Practical Action has been implementing and advocating for the past five to ten years. The group has proven that there are better ways to use land that can benefit both people and planet.

Colin McQuistan, Practical Action’s climate and resilience expert said: “We need farming systems that work for both people and planet, that work in harmony with nature yet are still productive enough to sustain people’s livelihoods – enabling them to thrive in their changing climate. And we need to help the world’s poorest, those affected most by climate change, to become more resilient to disasters and minimise the damage done to crops when disaster strikes.”

Practical Action has been trialling, refining and promoting agro-ecological approaches to farming and food production for many years. Recent work in drought-ravaged areas in Zimbabwe has enabled farming families who were reliant on food aid to dramatically increase their harvests and farm their way out of poverty for good. This was achieved through teaching new farming skills, better seed choices, fresh approaches to collaboration regarding crop planning and market systems and was assisted by green technologies, such as solar powered irrigation and improved climate information services.

Elsewhere in South Asia, the group has been working to reverse the effects of decades of poor land use caused by chemical-hungry intensive agriculture.

The report also calls out the need to address desertification, for which Practical Action won a UN award in 2017 for reclaiming desert in North Darfur, Sudan and returning it to pasture and arable land. Also highlighted in the report was the need for improved early warning systems and preparedness plans, which is Practical Action’s focus in Nepal, Bangladesh and Peru, where early warnings delivered via mobile phone text messages are providing hours of notice when floods are imminent, when previously there were only minutes to act.

While all this work is essential and protects lives and livelihoods in the developing world, addressing the causes of climate change is primarily a problem of developed nations.

McQuistan added: “We can apply ingenuity to counter the catastrophic effects of climate change, for example training farmers on better techniques, introducing more suitable seeds and technologies that boost food production, which will all make a difference, but this cannot take the place of the vitally urgent action needed to reduce emissions from energy, industry, and urban systems in developed economies.”