In its Flagship Report “World in Transition”, the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU - Wissenschaftlicher Beirat der deutschen Bundesregierung für globale Umweltveränderungen) has proposed a “Social Contract for a Major Transformation of World Society” with the aim of a global, sustainable environmental policy integrating the reduction in CO2 emissions that has been called for. Climate-friendly land use is key to this.
The WBGU Flagship Report also provided the basis for an experts’ roundtable discussion at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Eschborn /Germany in late September. As Karin Kortmann, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and future Head of Section at GIZ, stated introducing the meeting, working land use systems and a sustainable lifestyle together with changes in everyday habits are among the main pillars of a fundamental transition towards a climate-friendly society. Each year, there are losses in agricultural production of around 24 million tons of fertile soil world-wide owing to inappropriate land use systems. According to Kortmann, the transformation of natural ecosystems, for example of forests, into areas under cultivation was also one of the most important sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Growing plants to generate bio-energy and export-oriented food production was further exacerbating pressure on agricultural areas, Kortmann maintained.
At the meeting of experts, Dirk Messner, Deputy Chairman of the WBGU and co-author of the Flagship Report, therefore called on political decision-makers to implement strategies towards climate-friendly land use as quickly as possible and make a contribution in development to changes in lifestyles and consumer habits in global society.
Messner stressed that the environmentally relevant critical tipping points had been sufficiently established and that technologies were available to achieve the 2° Celsius climate protection goal. However, limiting damage as was currently being practised in the Euro crisis was not enough, Messner warned. Rather, forward-looking visions needed to be implemented. And this required a global social contract for a climate-friendly and sustainable global economic order.
Messner pointed to the significant role of climate-friendly agriculture; this included both investing in lowering greenhouse gas levels in agricultural production, reducing post-harvest losses, halting deforestation and a transition to sustainable forestry, as well as, last but not least, switching to environmentally compatible nutrition. Post-harvest losses, Messner feared, were a topic that development co-operation was still devoting too little attention to, in spite of 50 to 70 per cent of CO2 emissions developing after the production phase, and also because of a non-functioning cold chain. Studies had shown that as late as the 1990s, around half of agricultural produce was lost in this manner, a fact that was hardly noticed by the public at large, Messner reported.
Also to change nutrition habits and check the increasing waste of food, Messner proposed taxing varieties of food whose production involved high levels of C02 emissions. This included meat production as well. Eating meat ought to be particularly critically reassessed by consumers, Messner demanded at the meeting of experts, for livestock production was now accounting for three quarters of area under cultivation, with an upward trend, which was a result of rapidly changing eating habits in the rich emerging economies.