Delegates to Bonn Must Deal with Threats Scientists Say Could Lead to Mass Extinction

June 13, 2019

The UN climate change talks set to take place in Bonn, Germany next week will focus on smart energy and water use in the agri-food chain. Negotiators, including North American Climate Smart Agriculture (NACSAA) representatives, will have an opportunity to advance the core message that agriculture is a major solution platform for achieving global climate and sustainable development goals (SDGs).

It is a needed message in the light of an alarming, recently published UN report that asserts human activities “threaten more species now than ever before” – a finding based on the fact that around 25 percent of species in plant and animal groups are vulnerable.

The Global Assessment study – the first such report since 2005 – was issued by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and features the work of 400 experts from at least 50 countries. The report warns that roughly 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction due to human activity. Scientists say it would be the sixth mass extinction in history, and the first since humans started walking the earth.

The report asserts that humans are already losing key ecosystem services that nature provides, including crop pollination, storm mitigation, and clean air and water, and that the damage that is occurring will have dire implications for the survival of our own species. One million species, the report asserts, “already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss.”

The report notes that despite many local efforts, including those by indigenous peoples and local communities, by 2016, 559 of the 6,190 domesticated breeds of mammals used for food and agriculture were extinct – around nine per cent of the total – and at least 1,000 more are threatened. Also, many wild relatives of crops that are needed for long-term food security “lack effective protection.”

At the same time, the report asserts that reductions in the diversity of cultivated crops, their wild relatives and domesticated breeds of animals mean that farming will likely be less resilient against future climate change, pests and pathogens.

The findings underscore the importance of the upcoming climate change talks in Bonn, where NACSAA members will be on hand late this week for the annual forum of the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) and the UN Conference of Parties intersessional talks that follow next week. They plan to deliver the core message: “Agriculture is a major solution platform for achieving global climate and sustainable development goals.”

As stewards of the lands they work, farmers must be heard in these global discussions. NACSAA members will be in Bonn to represent farmers and offer recommendations that center on using an “all-of-the-tools-in-the-toolbox” approach. That includes technology and precision agriculture systems and practices – steps to be presented along with pathways offered by others to meet the challenges of a changing climate, such as regenerative and agro-ecological systems.

Representing farmers whose voices must be heard in these discussions will be NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder, a corn, soybean and wheat producer from Plain City, OH, who is a past president of the National Corn Growers Association and is a director with the Ohio Corn and Wheat Growers Association; A.G. Kawamura, a produce/specialty crop grower and shipper from Newport Beach, CA, and former director of the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA); and Ernie Shea, president of Solutions from the Land, NACSAA’s parent organization. Also, on hand will be NACSAA ally Karen Ross, the current CDFA secretary.

The ag-related Koronivia Joint Work Agreement (KJWA) sessions in Bonn next week will focus on adaptive management strategies and soil health – two areas where agricultural practitioners and their many partners in developed countries have extensive experience to share with developing countries. NACSAA representatives will be advancing their submission with country negotiators, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) subsidiary body experts and official observer parties. The submission includes guiding principles that should shape the KJWA; methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience; and pathways for improved soil carbon, soil health, and soil fertility.

Subsequent submissions will be developed and advanced on water management, nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems, livestock management and bioenergy including biofuels.

The UNESCO report warning of the onset of a sixth mass extinction adds unprecedented, if not alarming, urgency to achieving now the means to end the climate crisis and with it, the degradation of our natural resources. NACSAA members will be in Bonn urging to let those who work the land take the lead in saving that land.

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