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The agriculture and forestry sectors play a crucial role in climate change mitigation, the world’s top climate change expert said Tuesday, calling for action ahead of the next round of negotiations on a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
“The path we have to follow is very clear if the world wants to limit the temperature increase to two degrees Celsius,” said Rajendra Pachauri, Chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), speaking on the last day of the Forests Asia Summit in Jakarta. “And that, in a sense, should be seen as an opportunity rather than something that will add a burden to different societies across the globe.”
The IPCC’s fifth and most recent report emphasized the importance of transforming the energy sector in keeping the Earth’s temperature from rising beyond two degrees Celsius by the end of the century.
“Agriculture, forestry and land-use sectors combine to account for about 24 percent of the total emissions of greenhouse gases. And we therefore find that this is another sector that has great opportunities for mitigation,” Pachauri said.
“In terms of emissions of greenhouse gases, if anything, they are growing faster than any time in the past, so that is reason for concern, that is reason for action,” Pachauri said.
His comments came as the 2015 deadline for a new climate change agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol approaches. Nations have been deadlocked since the protocol expired in 2012. In 2011, they agreed to finalize a new treaty in Paris next year, to come into force in 2020.
The IPCC forecasts that “the cost of this pathway of mitigation is really very low,” Pachauri said, even though the report estimated a need for $147 billion a year until 2030 to triple cleaner energy sources for electricity by 2030.
“We have estimated that in order to bring about this kind of reduction in emissions, the loss in consumption per year globally would be no more than 0.06 percent of the global GDP,” Pachauri said, referring to the IPCC forecast for the end of the century.
Financial experts at the two-day summit expressed the private sector’s willingness to bankroll a greener economy, saying they were waiting for clear policy signals and more sophisticated investment models before throwing funds into the ring.
Some economists, however, say the costs will be higher than the IPCC suggests, pointing to European nations already spending well above 0.06 percent of their GDP on cleaner energy.
Even if the costs are higher, there is an array of co-benefits that also have value, Pachauri said. Slashing greenhouse gas emissions will mean better energy security, lower pollution levels, protected ecosystems and potentially even greater employment opportunities. Human health and food security too would benefit, he said, adding that the latest assessment found the impacts of climate change on agriculture were “far more serious” that earlier thought.
The first part of the IPCC’s fifth report was released last year, confirming that human activities have been the main cause of climate change since the mid-20th century.
It forecast temperatures to rise by between 0.3 and 4.8 degrees Celsius by the late 21st century under different scenarios.
To ensure the planet does not exceed a temperature rise of two degrees Celsius, total post-industrial emissions of carbon from all sources should be limited to 1,000 billion tons, it found.
About half of the budget has already been consumed, Pachauri said, adding that the world will have to reach negative emissions by the end of the century to stay below the two-degree-Celsius cap.