Last November, we wrote here of a major breakthrough occurring at the global climate talks in Bonn, Germany, where, for the first time, delegates approved plans to establish an agricultural work program.
What that meant is that representatives of nations around the world officially recognized the need to address agricultural adaptation and mitigation challenges, an objective that has been sought by Solutions from the Land (SfL), 25x’25’s parent organization, since the climate talks in Paris in 2017.
Now, only a few months later, the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA), an initiative launched by SfL, has submitted to two subsidiary bodies established by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) a series of recommendations in an initial stage of the formation of a joint agriculture work plan. That an agricultural approach to climate change is now being considered is a major policy breakthrough. It positions agricultural landscapes as a solution to climate challenges, and particularly in its focus on ways agricultural landscapes can be managed to produce clean energy and sequester carbon.
It’s only appropriate that these recommendations come from NACSAA, a farmer-led platform for inspiring, educating and equipping agricultural partners to innovate and implement effective local adaptation practices that sustain productivity, enhance climate resilience, and contribute to the local and global goals for sustainable development. Signing off on the recommendations is an extraordinary group of 60 principal interests and organizations from the agriculture, conservation, biofuel, academic, government and environmental fields.
The recommendations from NACSAA, which reflect and embrace all forms and scales of agriculture in Canada, Mexico and the United States, ranging from small landholders to midsize and large-scale producers, come in support of the directive out of the Bonn talks that the joint work on agriculture take into consideration the vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change and approaches to addressing food security. The alliance also makes clear that the work effort should be undertaken within the context of the three primary pillars of climate smart agriculture:
- Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and livelihoods;
- Enhancing adaptive capacity and improving resilience to climate change; and
- Delivering ecosystem services, sequestering carbon, and reducing and/or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.
While the joint work on agriculture will be applicable to both developed and developing countries, the NACSAA recommendations have specific areas of focus, calling on the effort to incorporate meetings of experts and workshops that can lead to an integrated strategy that enhances the sustainability and climate resilience of working landscapes, as well as reducing and/or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions,
All of the recommendations require assessments of the state of scientific knowledge and identify innovative, efficient and state-of- the-art technologies and know-how in those specific areas of focus, including livestock production, where improved practices can enhance sustainability and climate resilience.
Others include soil health, including management of soil carbon and how crop and livestock interacts with the soil. A water resource management recommendation calls for looking at practices that sustain water productivity and protect water quality. An examination of bioenergy, NACSAA says, should offer it as a climate change mitigation solution pathway.
Assessing innovation in crop and nutrient management can produce strategies that enhance the sustainability and climate resilience of working landscapes. A similar outcome should be pursued in an assessment of the management practices related to agroforestry and other ecologically diverse cropping systems.
The process of developing the work plan for agriculture will be long and laborious. But the organizations that proffer these recommendations understand the unprecedented opportunity being presented by the global discussions of resilience and mitigation solutions that can been offered by agriculture. These policy proposals are going to be developed, regardless of the farm sector’s participation. Now, agriculture interests have earned a meaningful place at the table and can discuss solutions they can offer, not just watch from the sidelines. The organizations are united in their pursuit of the ultimate goal: good policy that enhances agriculture and the environment.