In a virtual address delivered at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin earlier this week, UN Secretary General António Guterres delivered a sobering message to the delegates and those watching across the world. He said “We have a choice. Collective action or collective suicide. It is in our hands.”
Since its inception in 2010, the Petersberg Climate Dialogue has provided a forum to build trust and facilitate high-level multilateral political discussions on climate cooperation ahead of the UN Climate Conferences. Convened just months before COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, this year’s dialogue took place as the world reels from massive co-joined challenges:
- Broken economies resulting from the continuing pandemic;
- Sharp increases in hunger, malnutrition and in some areas regional starvation (see the SOFI Report: Record Hunger on the Rise ) fueled by the war in Ukraine;
- Climate change, which is wreaking havoc across the globe in the form of record shattering heat and wildfires across Europe, crippling drought in the western United States, expansive flooding in Southeast Asia;
- Dramatic increases in the intensity of extreme weather events across the globe.
Climate change impacts are already being felt in both the global south and global north. One can only imagine what conditions will be like and how livelihoods will be affected going forward to mid-century.
As the 30th anniversary of the Climate Convention nears, it’s obvious to SfL that the 193 participating countries and hundreds of affiliated non-state actors (UN speak for participants other than countries) need a new way forward. Despite decades of prolonged negotiations, countless numbers of public and private sector climate action commitments, experimentation and, in some cases, transformational change in energy production, manufacturing and transport, evidence shows that the world is not on track to hold the rise in mean global temperature to 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. Adaptation and mitigation strategies are falling short of what is required, the global energy transition has been interrupted, and forward progress is mired in debate between developing and developed countries over who should pay for loss and damages, and how much.
So, what can be done to change course and accelerate transformational change to achieve climate and other critically important sustainable development goals?
One simple step could be to unlock the ability and capacity of sustainably managed agricultural and forested landscapes to deliver solutions at scale that will benefit producers, the public and the planet. This was the message that SfL delivered at the Petersberg Dialogue this week, where SfL President Ernie Shea, representing the UNFCCC’s Farmers Constituency, urged member states and their collaborating business, academic and NGO partners to reimagine the role of agriculture in the 21st century and take action to enable farmers, ranchers, forest land managers and fishers to deliver multiple, integrated solutions from the land.
This can be done by placing farmers at the center of climate change discussions and decision-making; by pursuing pragmatic policies, programs and practices that recognize the tremendous diversity of agricultural landscapes; and by enabling producers to utilize the approaches and systems that best support their farming operations. Given the magnitude of the crises the world is facing, it’s time for world leaders to stop overthinking what needs to be and to recognize the capacity of global agriculture to deliver solutions at scale.
Rather than pursuing top-down, prescriptive approaches to reducing agricultural emissions, a remaining challenge, why not look at the other side of the coin and embrace incentives that can unleash indigenous knowledge, innovation, and agricultural technologies that will enable farmers and their value chain partners to sequester more carbon the soil and produce clean energy along with renewable transportation fuels.
Sometimes the solution you are looking for is literally beneath your feet. This was the message SfL delivered at the Petersberg Dialogue and will carry forward to COP 27 in Egypt this fall. Conditions are getting worse, not better, and it’s time for bold leadership and action. Our mission and obligation going forward is to ensure that agriculture is successful and remains viable, so it’s full potential to help humanity adapt and thrive is realized. Please join us in this epic quest.