National

Report poses climate risk to food security

By AAP Newswire

Immediate action needs to be taken to make the global food system more sustainable and secure in the face of climate change, a new report warns.

A report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released on Thursday has looked at the relationship between land use and climate change.

Mark Howden, an IPCC vice chair and director of the ANU Climate Change Institute, says climate change is rapidly ramping up existing threats to land, reducing its ability to feed and support populations.

At the same time, the land sector is also contributing to climate change, he added.

"We ignore the interactions between climate change and the land at our peril," Prof Howden said.

"If left unchecked, the current situation threatens to make climate change worse, and leave the world hungry and with increasingly damaged ecosystems.

"This report confirms the world has a double-edged sword hanging over its head."

The report flags changes in consumption patterns, leading to two billion overweight or obese adults while an estimated 821 million people are still undernourished.

One-third of food produced across the globe is lost or wasted, an outcome which is linked to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Reducing food waste would help reduce emissions and improve food security, the report says.

"Some dietary choices require more land and water, and cause more emissions of heat-trapping gases than others," IPCC's Debra Roberts says.

"Balanced diets featuring plant-based foods ... present major opportunities for adaptation to and limiting climate change."

The report points to diets based on coarse grains, legumes, fruit and vegetables, and sustainably produced animal products.

Sustainable land management needs to occur to prevent land degradation and to reduce the risk of soil erosion on arable land.

Asked about the report, Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the federal government has a swag of policies addressing land use issues.

They include the coalition's drought-proofing fund, national program of water reform and emissions reductions fund, which helps businesses - including land managers - take steps to reduce their emissions.

"The government recognises the importance of the land sector to Australia and is partnering with industry to improve productivity, sustainability and resilience," Mr Taylor told AAP in a statement.

The IPCC is a UN body set up to assess science related to climate change, providing the information to governments to help shape climate policy.

More than 100 experts from 52 countries prepared the latest report, drawing on work from 96 authors.

Agriculture currently accounts for about 70 per cent of global fresh water use, while natural ecosystems are declining due to expanded agriculture and forestry.

Agriculture, forestry and land use have accounted for close to a quarter of total emissions from 2007 to 2016, the report says.

Emissions from agricultural production are projected to increase, propelled by population and income growth, and changes in consumption patterns.

Advocacy group Farmers for Climate Action says the red meat sector has an ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030, with farmers hoping for a rapid transition to clean energy.

Christian Aid's global climate lead Katherine Kramer has described the report as a clarion call to improve land management for people, nature and the climate.

"There are many opportunities to create win-wins in the ways we use the land, but it's vital we implement these quickly to avoid having to make bleak choices between feeding people and reducing emissions," Dr Kramer said.