Agriculture Sector Must Take Active Role in Creating Climate Policy

December 13, 2018

Events at the last round of global climate talks in Katowice, Poland over the past two weeks have drawn a spotlight on the need for agriculture, conservation and agri-business interests to play a central role in the development of policy dealing with a changing climate.

The North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), a farmer-led platform launched by Solutions from the Land (SfL) in 2015 to promote adaptation and sustainable farm and forestry production, was on hand in Poland in support of the role farmers, ranchers and forestland owners can play in stemming climate change.

NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder and Ernie Shea, president of Solutions from the Land, carried with them to Katowice last week the message that any climate strategy developed must acknowledge the critically important role agricultural landscapes can play in sustaining productivity, enhancing climate resilience, and contributing to the local and global goals for sustainability. (Produce grower, former secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and SfL Co-Chair A.G. Kawamura is there this week.)

The decision last spring by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to consider the impacts to – and opportunities for – agriculture in dealing with global climate change has given the sector a place at the table. Now it’s time for the those who make their living from the land – those who work it, those who sustain it, and those who supply the means for food, feed, fiber and energy production – to get in the game.

NACSAA was at the 24th Conference of Parties (COP24) following up on recommendations made to the UNFCCC in the latter’s development of the Koronivia Joint Agriculture Work Program. The program was adopted at COP23 in Bonn last year to develop and implement new strategies for adaptation and mitigation within the agriculture sector that will help both reduce emissions and build its resilience to the effects of climate change.

Yoder addressed delegates from UNFCCC subsidiary groups that are developing the Koronivia plan, telling them than any enabling policies and programs should support the three pillars of climate smart agriculture: intensified production, increased resilience and reduced emissions.

Pointing out that there is no silver bullet solution for agriculture, he said a systems approach that recognizes the tremendous diversity of agricultural landscapes and enables producers to utilize the systems and practices that best support their farming operations must be pursued.

Yoder emphasized that farmers must be at the center of all discussions and decision-making, noting 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.

By positioning agricultural landscapes as a solution platform in the wider climate negotiations, global negotiators now have an obligation to get the best information, data and in-field experience agriculture stakeholders have to offer.

But now farmers, ranchers, forestland owners, researchers and member organizations have an equally serious obligation to get in the game and make themselves heard. There are numerous parties, including nations and “official observer” organizations, who are pursuing their own agendas and seeking to influence enabling policies, protect or encourage markets, and redirect finance flows.

Furthermore, multiple well-organized coalition groups are actively working to shape the Koronivia Work Program, as well as broader agriculture and food systems policy. They often call for a change in what is grown or how it’s grown; urging the substitution of plant-based foods for meat or dairy; or reducing the production and use of biofuels, all the while increasing efforts to change consumer consumption behavior.

NACSAA is one of only a few stakeholders representing and advocating the needs and priorities of agriculture in the developed world (Northern hemisphere), but much more input is needed. We call on those in the agriculture sector who recognize the massive challenges a changing climate is imposing on our ability to produce crops, livestock, dairy and other goods to join us in this global discussion. Let’s make sure the voice of agriculture is well heard.

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