EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog is authored by Ernie Shea, president of Solutions from the Land, who has just returned from Bonn, Germany, site of the latest negotiations on the role of agriculture in addressing climate change.
Over the course of the past 10 years, Solutions from the Land (SfL) and 25x’25, our clean energy platform, has been supporting a group of knowledgeable, experienced and visionary farmers, ranchers and foresters who have been working to shape the role of agriculture and forestry in a growing world that seeks a low carbon future.
Our work in this space has not been easy or popular; it is, however, critical. To shape the future, you first need to understand what the world wants, needs and is willing to support – three very different things.
Our analysis showed us that at the top of that list is food, feed, fiber, renewable energy, clean water, healthy and productive soils, biodiversity and a stable climate.
We then explored these basic outcomes through the lens of agricultural systems and asked the following questions:
- How can we position ourselves to deliver these goods and services?
- How can we be valued and seen as relevant in a 21st-century world where increasingly fewer and fewer people have any sense of where their food comes from?
- How can sustainably managed agricultural landscapes improve quality of life?
Our search for the answers to these questions led us to examine the types of enabling policies and market mechanisms that would be needed to produce the outcomes society expects. And in doing so, our farmer leaders traveled the globe, built relationships, recruited partners who shared our views and forged consensus.
We participated in gatherings of farmer leaders in Europe, South Africa, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and Australia. We met with government and civil society organizations at the Hague in the Netherland and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. We attended the gatherings of leaders from around the world staged by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – events also known as Conferences of Parties (COPs) – in Prague, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, Paris, Marrakesh and Bonn.
It has been a time-consuming process that has taken our leaders away from their farming operations and their families for weeks a time, often at their own expense. It started by building trust relationships with others around the world. Those relationships, in turn, allowed us to lay out a common vision of the future we wanted to create and to forge consensus on a roadmap needed to get there.
That collaboration resulted this week in the adoption by UN climate oversight panels in Bonn of the Koronivia Joint Work Agreement, a pact that for the first time brings the agriculture sector into the fold as an active player in global efforts to address climate change. The agreement positions agricultural landscapes as a solution to climate challenges, and particularly in its focus on ways these landscapes can be managed to produce food, clean energy and sequester carbon.
And critically, the Koronivia agreement adopted in Bonn includes virtually all of the recommendations offered by the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), an initiative launched by SfL that spawned the global collaboration of farm leaders, which, in turn, ensured at last a serious agricultural approach to climate change.
But now is not the time to rest. We need to build on the foundation laid out in Bonn and redouble our efforts to ensure that the right enabling policies, financial and market mechanisms are in place to enable the development of agricultural landscapes that will sustain productivity, enhance climate resilience and contribute to the local and global goals for sustainability.
The process undertaken in recent years underscores the adage that there are three types of people in this world: those that watch and complain about what is happening; those that are not engaged and wonder what is happening; and those that make things happen.
Solutions from the Land is seeking the latter going forward. Who is ready to join with us in contributing the time and financial resources needed to ensure that farms, ranches and forests are empowered to provide the fullest range of goods and services from the land? The future is calling. If we don’t shape it, others who do not share our value system, priorities and approach will. It’s that simple. SfL invites you to join our epic quest to shape strategies and action plans that will produce a triple win for agriculture, the environment and the world.