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Why land matters in the fight against climate change

The fight against climate change often centers on shifting to renewable energy sources and reducing carbon pollution—two essential actions to keep our planet’s temperature in check. But another crucial element often gets overlooked: changing the way we use land.

We’ve altered entire landscapes to produce everything from food and clothing to paper and fuel. And when we slash and burn forests, drain mangroves, or plow up grasslands, we release into the atmosphere heat-trapping carbon dioxide that plants, trees, and soil once captured and stored safely in the ground. Keeping these natural storage systems intact—and restoring those that have been degraded—can help us prevent global temperatures from increasing more than 1.5°C above historical levels, as outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.

There is no viable global solution to the climate crisis without improving the ways we use land.

But by working together, we can prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change while still meeting the needs of people, wildlife, and wild places. Here's what we're doing to help—and what you can do.

 

Land Use and Climate

Food and Climate

Eat healthy and responsibly. Cut waste in half.
Agriculture is responsible for about a quarter of humankind’s greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, a third of the food we grow never ends up on our plates. We can prevent this waste by producing, buying, or taking only what we need—especially when it comes to foods that drive habitat loss and increase greenhouse gas emissions. By eating healthily and responsibly, we can lighten the burden that our appetites put on wildlife, wild places, and the climate. 

Forests, Grasslands, and Climate

Conserve and restore habitats.
Businesses can shrink their carbon footprints by ensuring that the making of their product does not involve cutting down forests or destroying habitats as it moves from source to market. Farmers and ranchers can also use climate-smart methods—like planting cover crops and using more precise and efficient irrigation—to produce enough food for everyone while also keeping carbon in the ground. And by rehabilitating soils and reforesting lands that have been degraded or cleared, we can remove even more of that carbon from the atmosphere. Another way to help? Look for the FSC label when purchasing products that come from forests.

Rancher in his barn

Forests, Food, and Land Challenge

Fund improvement. Increase transparency. Protect rights.
To improve agriculture and protect habitats, we must ensure the success of those on the ground—the producers, local governments, and communities that are on the front lines of land conservation. Banks, large agribusinesses and food companies, and governments must work together to create the conditions that farmers and ranchers need to succeed. This includes providing financial incentives to encourage and enable the adoption of more sustainable production practices; engaging local policymakers to enforce forest conservation laws and level the playing field for responsible producers; and creating a seat at the table for local communities and indigenous peoples when it comes to making decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods.

 

Better land use, healthier planet

WWF is leading a coalition of food, forestry, and other groups in working together to improve how we use our lands to deliver up to 30% of the climate solutions needed by 2030 to prevent global temperatures from increasing more than 1.5°C above historical levels. We’ll do this by conserving vital forests and habitats, better managing how we produce and eat food, and improving how we use our lands.

Businesses, cities, state and local leaders, and global citizens play a critical role in reducing emissions to fight climate change. WWF is bringing them together to help national governments deliver on their climate goals and let them know that We Are Still In.

And around the world, WWF and our partners are helping America’s new generation of climate leaders share their climate goals with their peers and set new, ambitious targets to share at the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit

 

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