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Climate change and land use discussed at COP26

Commitments made at COP26 show nature and land use are being recognised as essential to meeting Paris Agreement goals and could contribute to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

Twenty-six nations set out new commitments to change their agricultural policies to become more sustainable and less polluting, and to invest in the science needed for sustainable agriculture and protecting food supplies against climate change. All continents were represented, with countries including India, Colombia, Vietnam, Germany, Ghana, and Australia.

Examples of national commitments aligned with this agenda include:

  • Brazil’s plan to scale its ABC+ low carbon farming programme to 72m hectares, saving 1 billion tonnes of emissions by 2030
  • Germany’s plans to lower emissions from land use by 25m tonnes by 2030
  • The UK’s aim to engage 75% of farmers in low carbon practices by 2030

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The UK also announced funding of £500m to support the implementation of the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Roadmap that was launched during the World Leaders Summit early last week, in which 28 countries are working together to protect forests while promoting development and trade.

A further £65 million will support a Just Rural Transition to help developing countries shift policies and practices to more sustainable agriculture and food production. 

Launched on 2 November, 134 countries covering 91% of the world’s forests (including Brazil, China, Russia and Indonesia) have now endorsed the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, committing to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030. 

Climate action also means considering how land is used

COP26 President, Alok Sharma: “If we are to limit global warming and keep the goal of 1.5C alive, then the world needs to use land sustainably and put protection and restoration of nature at the heart of all we do.

“The commitments being made today show that nature and land use is being recognised as essential to meeting the Paris Agreement goals and will contribute to addressing the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. Meanwhile, as we look ahead to negotiations in week two of COP, I urge all parties to come to the table with the constructive compromises and ambitions needed.”

The World Bank will commit to spending $25 billion in climate finance annually to 2025 through its Climate Action Plan, including a focus on agriculture and food systems.  

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COP26 and land use in Africa

At the end of the 2021 Conference on Land Policy in Africa, the AfDB, African Union Commission and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa pledged financial and technical assistance “to ensure that land governance and land policy processes in Africa are transparent, lucid and accessible and that state and indigenous systems are easily integrated”.  

Hosted by the Rwandan government, the theme of the conference was Land governance for safeguarding art, culture and heritage towards the Africa We Want.

Leontine Kanziemo, AfDB Advisor, Natural Resources: “At this time when the world is also engaged in the COP26 process, we wish to underscore the fact that large parts of our continent are deserts or semi-arid and are facing ecological damage. Yet, more than often, unequal distribution of land has relegated a growing population of smallholder farmers, women, and youth to marginal areas, leading to increased pressure on land and land resource degradation.”

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The declaration called for greater land equity in order to broaden access to natural resources. It also said it was crucial to work with governments, artists and cultural leaders to ensure that women and youth have access to land.  

The declaration called for traditional custodians of African art, heritage, and culture to be included in all pro-poor land policies. According to the World Trade and Tourism Council, the creative industries will add $269 billion to African GDP by 2026 and more than 29 million jobs with skills that are attractive to young people.

Theresa Smith
Theresa Smith is a Content Specialist for ESI Africa.