Symposium, report shine light on critical role of terrestrial carbon sinks
21 March 2017, Rome – Warning of “colossal” negative impacts for the environment and human societies if the massive stores of carbon trapped in the Earth’s soils are released, Fijian president Jioji Konousi Konrote called for stronger management of this critical natural resource at the start of an international symposium today.
There is currently more carbon locked up in just the first meter of the planet’s soils than can be found in the atmosphere and all terrestrial plant life combined, he said during his keynote address to the Global Symposium on Soil Organic Carbon (21-23 March).
Referring to international commitments to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius made under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Konrote warned: “If we fail to maintain our soils as a carbon reservoir, I am afraid that these discussions and negotiations would have been in vain.”
“We cannot afford to neglect a resource that could be our serious and viable ally against climate change,” he added.
Fiji and other small island developing states are on the front lines in the battle against climate change. The government of Fiji is poised to assume the presidency of the next Conference of Parties of the UN Climate Agreement that will take place in in Bonn, Germany, in November.
FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva in his remarks stressed that beyond their critical role as a carbon sink, healthy soils underpin multiple environmental processes upon which humankind depends and which are the foundation of global food security.
“Soils with high organic carbon content are likely to be more fertile and productive, better able to purify water, and help to increase the resilience of livelihoods to the impacts of climate change,” he noted.
This means that improving the health of the planet’s soils and boosting their organic carbon content is critical to achieving several of the international development goals established by the UN’s 2030 agenda, especially the second goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition, FAO’s Director-General said.