A majority of the people in the world want climate action to focus on the land. This is the finding of the world’s largest poll conducted to gather the public’s opinion about climate change and the actions governments’ should take.
Conservation of land and forests and adopting climate-friendly farming techniques are the public’s top two policy priorities. About 54 percent of those surveyed want conversion of natural land or forests eliminated. They also want a switch to renewable energies and to climate-friendly farming techniques. Ranked second and third, respectively, these options received 53 and 52 percent of the vote.
Over 1.2 million people in 50 countries with over 56 percent of the global population responded to the poll, known as the Peoples’ Climate Vote. It is the largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted.
The survey results came out Wednesday, the same day that President Joseph Biden of the United States released an Executive Order “to tackle the climate crisis at home and abroad while creating good-paying union jobs and equitable clean energy future, building modern and sustainable infrastructure, restoring scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking across the federal government, and re-establishing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.”
President Biden’s Executive Order prioritizes, among other actions, an energy revolution, conserving natural resources and leveraging them to help drive the nation toward a clean energy future, and delivering justice for communities who have been subjected to environmental harm.
Welcoming the decision and the President’s offer to host a Leaders Climate Summit in April, Ibrahim Thiaw, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification said, “this is a time like no other” and called on “all world leaders to heed the public’s call for bold policy actions on the land. We know what needs to be achieved and where, and the framework for action exists.”
“The public is asking us to build back better for a resilient future through better decisions and smart plans. We must stop financing activities that encourage land users to convert natural ecosystems into other uses. Instead, finance must be directed to three concrete activities. First, better foresting activities. Second, fixing land that was damaged. And third, sustainable farming practices that fix the land while increasing its output,” he added.
A Special Report released in 2019 by the authoritative global scientific body on climate change, the IPCC, shows that 70 percent of natural ecosystems have been significantly altered. Country reports submitted by Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification show that one in five of the degraded hectares are degraded beyond cost-effective repair.
At the same time, a study released in October 2020 by the Dutch-based research organization, PBL, shows that nearly 800 million hectares of degrading land can be restored back to health. About 250 million hectares of which is farmland.
“The public has witnessed the dangers of land use change across all countries. And it is not just in the loss of species or of productive land. It is in the increase in extraordinary and dangerous weather events, such as hurricanes, droughts and floods. It is in recurrent food shortages and crop failures. It is from the society wide impacts of a pandemic of the kind that is linked to land use change. And it is in these impacts worsening with every passing year. It is not a question of whether change is possible. It’s whether the will to change exists,” Thiaw stated.
The Peoples’ Climate Vote is one component of a campaign to educate people about climate change solutions and ask them about the actions that they think governments should take. It aims to connect the public to policymakers – and to provide the latter with reliable information on whether people considered climate change an emergency, and how they would like their countries to respond.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its partners launched the Peoples’ Climate Vote campaign in 2020. The University of Oxford and several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are part of the campaign.