A new report by the United Nation’s (UN) climate science panel has warned that countries, companies and individuals need to increase efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) from agriculture, farming and forestry if these sectors are to play a meaningful role in slowing the pace of climate change, AgriCensus wrote.

With the planet’s population approaching 8bn and surging demand for key protein crops such as soyabean, the urgency for change has increased, according to the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Agriculture provides the second-largest share of the mitigation potential… from cropland and grassland soil carbon management, agro-forestry, use of biochar, improved rice cultivation, and livestock and nutrient management,” the IPCC report said.

The measures could reduce GHG emissions by 4.1 gigatonnes (Gt) carbon dioxide-equivalent between now and 2050, compared with estimated global emissions of 59 Gt in 2019 when land-use changes were taken into account, the IPCC said.

Other measures, such as shifting to sustainable healthy diets, reductions in food waste, building with wood, and the use of biochemicals and bio-textiles, had a combined mitigation potential of 2.2 GtCO2-eq year, according to the 4 April report.

“Most mitigation options are available and ready to deploy,” the report said, but the UN’s wider message in the report was that there must be “rapid, deep and immediate” cuts in GHG emissions, while global emissions of CO2 across all major economic sectors would need to peak within three years to ward off the worst impacts of climate change.

Removal of carbon from the atmosphere on a mass scale would be required to reduce GHG emissions below the threshold of a 1.50C temperature rise, the IPCC said, warning that based on currently-pledged mitigation measures, the planet was on course for a 3.20C rise in average global temperatures, an increase that would make much of the world's land uninhabitable.

Policies aimed at reducing emissions from farming and land-use change had been largely ineffective to date, the report said, and would require much stronger governance, institutions, long-term and consistent execution of mitigation measures, as well as specific policy setting.

The report noted that so far, US$0.7-1.44bn/year had been spent on GHG mitigation from agriculture and land use, well below the more than US$400bn/year that was estimated to be needed to deliver up to 30% of the global mitigation effort to keep the world within the lesser magnitude of climate change.

“This estimate of the global funding requirement is smaller than current subsidies provided to agriculture and forestry. A gradual redirection of existing agriculture and forestry subsidies would greatly advance mitigation,” the report said.

The IPCC said it estimated that absolute GHG emissions from food systems had risen from 14 to 17 GtCO2-eq/year in the period 1990-2018.

Created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the IPCC provides governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.