Press release: U.N Report confirms current agriculture and forestry practices are driving climate catastrophe

Brussels, 8 August 2019

An IPCC special report shows that agriculture, logging and agro-food industry are responsible for over a fifth of emissions causing climate change. They are the biggest global cause of ‘land use’ change – replacing natural environments with plantations and fields and degrading remaining natural habitats such as forests and wetlands. Around one third of the world’s land surface and over 70% of freshwater resources are devoted to crop or livestock production. Urgent and radical changes to consumption, production and land use are urgent to avoid global calamity.

The report, which was put together by 103 experts from 52 countries clearly shows that industrial agriculture must be transformed to include more sustainable practices that rebuild soil carbon, natural vegetation and biodiversity. Going hand-in-hand with this, consumers must also reduce their meat and dairy consumption – especially in regions where these products are grossly overconsumed. The EU spends 58 billion euros funding the perverse Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Originally designed to ensure food security, it is now undermining it. The current CAP spends the bulk of its budget on unsustainable forms of farming that drive greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, and ecosystem collapse.  

The report also confirms that bioenergy is not an acceptable alternative to fossil fuels. Land use change for bioenergy greatly increases pressure on land and water resources, with potentially irreversible consequences for food security and land degradation.

Finally, the report makes clear that there must be large-scale nature restoration, in particular of peatlands, wetlands, and natural forests and grasslands, to help recover both biodiversity habitats and carbon stocks while improving water retention.

Ariel Brunner, Senior Head of Policy, BirdLife Europe:

“Every new study confirms the same fact: time is running out for overhauling our farming system. And yet we still invest tens of billions in the CAP, a perverse system that funds the destruction of nature, and the abuse of land on which our future, and that of farming, depends. Wrong money, going to the wrong farmers to do the wrong things. The crisis grows in urgency but we still fail to respond to save ourselves.”

Luke Edwards, Climate Change & Land Use Policy Policy Officer:
“BirdLife has been sounding the alarm over the lunacy of bioenergy subsidies for almost 15 years now but the EU government has consistently put the interests of the intensive farm and forestry lobby, as well as the car and aviation industries, ahead of those of people and the planet. Today’s scientific consensus should serve as a wakeup call”.

For more information, please contact:

Luke Edwards, Climate Change & Land Use Policy Policy Officer
+32 2238 50 91

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.