North American Climate Smart Agriculture (NACSAA) leaders are once again on the global stage, talking this week with representatives from nations around the world meeting in Bonn, Germany, promoting the role of farmers, ranchers and woodland owners in addressing climate change challenges.
NACSAA Chairman Fred Yoder, Steering Committee member A.G. Kawamura and Ernie Shea, the alliance’s coordinator, are impressing upon UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) delegates in Bonn that farm-based solutions are needed to help address the threat that has grown rapidly in recent years. The urgency to develop means to address challenging climatic conditions has never been greater.
The impact of changing climatic conditions on agriculture and food systems is becoming more pronounced around the world, as evidenced by recent weather events that have come with a virtually unprecedented intensity and frequency. Massive flooding this Spring across much of the midwestern United States, heavy storms that have caused flooding and considerable devastation in many parts of Europe, and dangerous heat and drought that are hitting large parts of China and India are all among events that are raising the stakes for climate negotiators.
NACSAA representatives in Bonn are impressing upon delegates there that action – transformational change, even – is needed now and must encompass all aspects of the global food system, including not only production, but transportation, packaging, marketing and even consumer patterns.
With the support of policy makers at all levels of government and smart business investments, well-managed agricultural landscapes can offer climate solutions through the three pillars of climate-smart agriculture: intensified production; adaptation that can make crops more resilient; and the sequestration and reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are derived through conservation practices and low-carbon biofuels.
Over the weekend, NACSAA’s representatives first participated in the annual Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) conference. There, Kawamura, a third-generation farmer from California and co-chair of Solutions from the Land, delivered the opening keynote address. He outlined how agriculture can be a global solution platform for meeting climate and sustainable development goals.
“We need to put our imagination into focus” and find alternative ways to produce food and farming methods that are climate-smart, he told the members. “Successful agriculture sustains humanity.”
Yoder told GACSA delegates that Climate Smart Agriculture must embrace an “all tools in the toolbox approach,” stressing the role of technology in helping farmers sequester carbon in soil and produce lower emissions with cleaner biofuels.
In remarks during the climate conference’s closing Koronivia Joint Agriculture Work session today, Shea implored the delegates to embrace and follow the guiding principles NACSAA’s representatives have developed to shape the formation of the Koronivia work program. These include:
- Science-based decision making should be the foundation for the adoption of climate smart technologies and practices for sustainable agriculture and global food production.
- Production and production efficiency per unit of land must increase going forward to meet the food needs of the future while incurring no net environmental cost.
- Outcomes (rather than means) applicable to any scale of enterprise must be emphasized, without predetermining technologies, production type or design components.
Shea reminded the delegates that there is no silver bullet solution for enhancing the resilience of agriculture. The agreement they strike must ultimately embrace a systems approach that recognizes the tremendous diversity of agricultural landscapes and ecosystems and enables producers to utilize the technologies, systems and practices that best support their farming operations.
Most importantly, Shea stressed that farmers must be at the center of all discussions and decision-making and that significant input will be needed from a wide range of agricultural stakeholders. They must include technical agricultural experts drawn from farmer organizations, academia, industry, and international and regional organizations, especially those outside of the UNFCCC, which has overseen global conferences on climate for 25 years.
Also heard during the Koronivia session this week was California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Karen Ross, a friend of NACSAA who outlined the Healthy Soils and Climate Smart Agriculture initiatives in her state, the fifth largest economy in the world. She cited President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s call to action during the height of the Dust Bowl era: “A nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.”
At the heart of all the arguments made on behalf of Climate Smart Agriculture this week, the prevailing sentiment – and the best approach to meeting the world’s climate needs – is that those who tend the earth are in the foremost position to protect it and meet the challenges ahead. This is the overarching message that NACSAA and Solutions from the Land will be advancing over the next three years. The time for action is now; as the UNFCCC formulates its first ever roadmap to enable agricultural landscapes to deliver solutions to global climate and sustainable development goal, it’s our job to make sure it is properly constructed. Who will join us in ensuring this outcome?