COP 23 Delegates Look to Agricultural Landscapes for Solutions to Climate Change

A major breakthrough occurred at the 2017 global climate talks (COP 23), which concluded in Bonn, Germany, last Saturday – approval was granted to establish an agricultural work program.

COP 23 delegates directed the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to “address issues related to agriculture.”

What this means, is that the delegates officially recognized the need to address agricultural adaptation and mitigation challenges, and to put in motion a process to establish an official agricultural work program. This is an objective that has been sought by Solutions from the Land (SfL), since COP 21 in Paris two years ago.

COP23 Parties and observers are being called upon to submit recommendations for work plan elements by March 31 of next year. Elements to be addressed include, but are not limited to:

  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience;
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management;
  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems;
  • Improved livestock management systems;
  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector.

While the process of developing an agricultural work plan will be long and laborious, the very intent represents a major breakthrough in positioning agricultural landscapes as a solution to climate challenges. Of particular interest will be ways agricultural landscapes can be managed to produce clean energy and sequester carbon.

To advance and scale up these win-win outcomes, SfL leaders Fred Yoder and Ernie Shea will be in Rome next month for the annual forum of the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA). There they will seek to build a stronger base of support for adaptive management planning and climate solutions that farmers, ranchers and foresters can deliver from the land.

COP23’s green light decision to address agricultural adaptation and mitigation challenges paves the way for North American producers and value chain partners working under the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), to scale up these high value, and often lower cost, climate smart agriculture solution pathways.

The Bonn conference makes clear that despite a limited “official” policy position, U.S. interests in combatting climate change will not go unrepresented. And because of non-governmental groups like SfL, the incredibly significant role of managing agricultural landscapes to meet a growing demand for sustainably produced food, feed and fiber, while simultaneously sinking carbon and producing renewable energy, is now at the forefront.

Political leaders at all levels around the world should embrace the efforts of those in agriculture who are working to maximize the use of their landscapes to help fight a changing climate. SfL stands ready to help policy makers develop the tools needed by these foresighted farm and grower groups to meet the growing challenges of an ever-changing future.


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