Episode 7: Land Use with Cyril Kormos and Mamta Mehra

In this episode, we are joined by Drawdown Advisor Cyril Kormos and Senior Fellow Mamta Mehra to look at Land Use, a vitally important sector that has been often overlooked in international climate agreements.

One of the biggest revelations to come from Drawdown’s research was the vital contribution of land to reversing global warming, through carbon sequestration. Having already looked at agricultural solutions that help store carbon in soil, we now turn to how we can protect and expand the world’s carbon sinks. These range from the world’s forests, often referred to as the planet’s lungs, to lesser known but vitally important carbon sinks, such as mangroves and peatlands. Indeed, not only can better protections help take carbon out of the atmosphere but they are vital to avoiding catastrophic warming. For instance, peatlands cover just 3% of the world’s surface but they protect 1,230 gigatons of CO2, 34 times more than the total CO2 emissions from 2016.

We discuss some of the main issues affecting the world’s carbon sinks, such as deforestation and land degradation. We examine the importance of untouched primary forests, which are self-sustaining havens for biodiversity, more resilient in the face of warming and crucially hold more carbon than degraded forests. While forest protection often conjures up ideas of tropical forests such as the Amazon, it is important to note that boreal and temperate forests are also extremely important and that deforestation is not an issue confined to the Global South. We look at the key governance mechanisms and initiatives in place that can help protect forests, notably international agreements like the Bonn Challenge and New York declaration and local governance, such as protecting indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands. We also examine the possibilities of regenerating degraded land and deforested areas, including natural deforestation and afforestation.

We also briefly address what market signals can be harnessed to protect forests. We look at the issue of distorted subsidies that are facilitating harmful activities such as industrial agriculture, rather than spurring much needed regenerative initiatives. We also touch on the potential of the somewhat controversial practice of pricing ecosystem services to help protect forests.

Cyril Kormos is vice president for policy at the Wild Foundation, where he researches and advocates for issues including wilderness law and policy, conservation finance, and forest policy.  He is also Executive Director of Wild Heritage, a project of Earth Island Institute. Wild Heritage focuses on primary forest protection and leveraging the World Heritage Convention for wilderness and large land and seascape conservation. Cyril also coordinates International Action for Primary Forests, an NGO coalition promoting the protection of primary forests globally. Mamta Mehra is an environmental professional with expertise in climate change, agriculture, and natural resource management. She is currently working as a consultant on environment and livelihood-based projects with national and international organizations and in the past has worked on a number of initiatives including resource conservation and diversified farming systems.

Find out more about Drawdown’s Land Use solutions.