Agricultural Leaders Shaping Global Climate Strategies: Who Would Have Thought?

May 9, 2019

Solutions from the Land takes great pride in supporting the North American Climate Smart Action Alliance (NACSAA) as it continues its important work in putting farmers, ranchers and foresters in a central position to develop the steps needed to adapt to changing climate conditions, sequester carbon, and reduce and/or avoid greenhouse gas emissions.

A collaboration of widely diverse agricultural, agribusiness, academic, government and other interests, the alliance on Monday submitted its third round of recommendations to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Conventions (UNFCCC) in support of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture’s (KJWA) upcoming workshops next month in Bonn, Germany.

The KJWA, adopted at the UN climate conference (COP23) in November 2017, officially acknowledges the significant role the global agriculture sector can play in adapting to and mitigating climate change. NACSAA’s latest submission addresses two new topics:

  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management

Rather than watching other interests shape the future of global agriculture and land use policy, the courageous leaders who comprise NACSAA stepped forward and offered their expert recommendations for how to scale up climate smart agriculture across the planet.

The leaders began by taking note of the growing threat to how the world produces food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystem services, as detailed in a special report issued last fall by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Domestically, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, a collaboration of scientists and experts from 13 federal government agencies, released last November the Fourth National Climate Assessment Report, Vol. II, which significantly details future production declines and economic losses for our nation’s farmers, ranchers and forestland owners if no action is taken to adapt to and help mitigate the growing challenges of our changing climate.

NACSAA’s latest submission lays out important guiding principles and recommended methods and strategies for assessing vulnerability, adapting to changing climatic conditions and improving soil health. The submission’s overarching recommendation, which is reinforced several times throughout the document, is the need for a scientific basis for change.

Noting that science-based decision making should be the foundation for the adoption of climate smart technologies and practices for sustainable agriculture and global food production, NACSAA drew attention to the recent communique from the 8th G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS), which affirmed this very point. The United States is a member of the G20 Agricultural Chief Scientists.

The recommendations also reinforce the alliance’s position that farmers must be at the center of all discussions and decision-making, an approach that NACSAA has successfully impressed upon UNFCCC negotiators. The alliance has made clear that significant input will be needed from a wide range of agricultural stakeholders, including technical agricultural experts drawn from farmer organizations, academia, industry, and international and regional organizations, especially those outside of the UNFCCC structure. To that end, NACSAA recommends that peer reviewed academic, business and farmer climate smart agriculture research and knowledge sharing recommendations outside of the UNFCCC should be considered by the two UNFCCC work groups working on the KJWA and integrated into the final work joint agreement report.

Also emphasized by the alliance is the fact that there is no silver bullet solution for enhancing agricultural resilience. NACSAA calls for the KJWA to embrace a systems approach that recognizes the tremendous diversity of agricultural landscapes and ecosystems. NACSAA also calls out the need to enable producers to utilize the systems and practices that best support their farming operations.

As for strategies to improve soil carbon, soil health, and soil fertility, NACSAA stressed the tremendous and largely untapped capacity of agricultural landscapes to sequester carbon and support net negative emission solution pathways. Enhancing soil carbon and maintaining soil fertility are the foundations of soil health, and climate resilient agricultural systems will increase the overall stability and efficiency of the agricultural sector. Fostering the implementation of practices that increase the uptake and storage of carbon into the system will pay dividends for both the climate and food security while delivering multiple ecosystem service co-benefits.

The submission represents still another example of a diverse coalition of agricultural thought leaders willing to step up and advance on the world stage the actions needed to meet increasingly severe conditions brought on by a changing climate. Solutions from the Land is grateful for the hard work alliance members have undertaken to ensure farmers, ranchers and foresters around the world can meet future demands for food, feed, fiber and energy – while also being valued, and someday even compensated, for the ecosystem services they deliver from the land. Cheers to the organizations and individuals who have chosen to be leaders in the broader discussion of CSA, including adaptation and mitigation strategies.

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