A previous analysis had already suggested that offsetting emissions through carbon sinks would require huge amounts of land, making current climate pledges not feasible or advisable. The focus at the upcoming COP28, the updated report says, should instead be on phasing out fossil fuels.
High-emitting developed nations continue to over-rely on “unrealistic amounts” of the world’s land to mitigate climate change and achieve net zero emissions, a new analysis has warned.
A group of scientists and analysts from the University of Melbourne and Climate Resource, who analysed new data on almost 40 updated country climate pledges and low emissions development strategies, found that the implementation of current land-based climate mitigation pledges will require about 910-1,060 million hectares (2.25-2.62 billion acres) – an area larger than the United States – with 75% of it coming from climate pledges from wealthy polluting nations, including the US, Canada, Australia, and Saudi Arabia.
The updated analysis builds on the findings of the 2022 Land Gap Report, which suggested that reforestation and restoration projects made up the largest portion of land area pledged for carbon removal projects. New data shows that about 470-490 million hectares of that total land area is currently required for reforestation and afforestation projects – with Saudi Arabia and the United States accounting for 42% and 25% of land respectively, while a further 440-570 million hectares is destined to the restoration of ecosystem and degraded lands – with Russia making up about 70% of all pledged restoration activities.
The updated analysis reinforces the findings of last year’s report, which concluded that current climate pledges “ignore scientific and ecological principles” by putting too much emphasis on tree planting as the best way to offset fossil fuel emission, forcing the displacement of Indigenous communities and small farmers, and adding pressure on ecosystems and food security. It argues that focussing on land-based pledges risks delaying climate ambition and is used a way to compensate for the absence of near-term solutions.
“If the world is to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming, it is essential that [Nationally Determined Contributions] are transparent and credible, not relying on false solutions like biological carbon offsetting and bioenergy carbon capture and storage,” said Kate Dooley, lead author of the Land Gap Report.
Speaking about the Global Stocktake, a five-year assessment of global action on global action climate change to date agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Agreement that countries convening at the upcoming COP28 are expected to finalise in a few weeks’ time, she said the focus should instead be on prioritising a fossil fuels phase-out – essential if the world wants to limit warming below 1.5C – and on discouraging countries from “continuing to over-rely on land to offset their high emissions.”
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