Mon, Nov 12, 2018 - Page 7 News List

A radically realistic vision is needed to deal with global warming

By Barbara Unmussig

A zero-waste circular economy for textiles would include not just more use of the clothes that are produced, but also improved recycling and repurposing of materials, to avoid emissions-producing waste disposal processes such as incineration. The biggest gains would come from the introduction of less wasteful production processes.

Important steps should also be taken regarding land use, encompassing agriculture and zoning changes.

As the international peasant’s movement La Via Campesina shows, the industrial food system’s emissions — including those from production, fertilizers, transport, processing, packaging, cooling and food waste, as well as from deforestation associated with the expansion of industrial agriculture — account for 44 to 57 percent of the global total.

A peasant agroecological production system based on food sovereignty, small-scale farming and agroecology could, La Via Campesina says, halve carbon emissions from agriculture within a few decades.

This approach is proven to work: small-scale farmers, peasants, fishers, indigenous communities, rural workers, women and youth already feed 70 percent of the world’s population, while using only 25 percent of its agricultural resources.

There is also a need to restore natural ecosystems that have been destroyed. Forests and peatlands, in particular, can sequester several hundred gigatonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Their restoration would protect not just biodiversity, but also local people, including the indigenous communities whose land-tenure rights have been systematically violated.

Retaining and expanding the land area under management by indigenous peoples and local communities could protect more than 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide worth of carbon stocks.

According to a report by the Climate, Land, Ambition, and Rights Alliance, ecosystem-based approaches in the land sector and agroecological changes to food production and consumption systems — including more local ownership — could deliver 13 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year in avoided emissions, and almost 10 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually in sequestered carbon by 2050.

The result would be 448 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide in cumulative removals by 2100 — about 10 times present global annual emissions.

Limiting global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels is our best hope of containing the effects of a climate crisis born of historical injustices and deep-rooted inequities.

The only way to succeed would be to undertake a shift to a new socioeconomic system. This means abandoning the single-minded obsession with GDP growth — which has facilitated the proliferation of wasteful production and consumption patterns and fueled economic and social inequality and injustice — in favor of a public goods approach that serves genuinely to make people’s lives better.

Demanding such a transformation is not “naive” or “politically unfeasible.” It is radically realistic. It is the only way we can achieve social justice, while protecting our environment from devastating climate change.

Barbara Unmussig is president of the Heinrich Boll Foundation.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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