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Countries’ climate pledges put unrealistic demands for land ahead of emissions reductions

Countries favour risky tree-planting schemes over protecting, restoring and sustainably managing the forests we already have standing, with research showing national carbon plans requiring a land area larger than the size of the US, or almost four times the land area of India. A new study released today is the first to calculate that countries collectively need a total of 1.2 billion hectares of land to fulfill the promises laid out in their official climate plans, part of global efforts to meet Paris Agreement goals. The study, involving more than 20 researchers from around the world and released today by Melbourne Climate Futures, determines that countries intend to use 633 million hectares of the total land area for carbon capture tactics like tree planting, which would gobble up land desperately needed for food production and nature protection. Only 551 million hectares accounted for in pledges would restore degraded lands and primary forests, which store carbon, regulate rainfall and local temperatures, shelter plants and animals, purify water and air and in some cases belong to Indigenous Peoples, whose land rights are found to be critical to reducing climate change due to their stewardship of forests.

Land has a critical role to play in global efforts to keep the planet cool, but it’s not a silver bullet solution,” said Dr Kate Dooley, the lead author of The Land Gap Report and a researcher at the University of Melbourne. “This study reveals that countries’ climate pledges are dangerously over-reliant on inequitable and unsustainable land-based measures to capture and store carbon.”

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