A Message of Hope: Regeneration International at COP21 in Paris

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When we invited activists, authors, farmers, filmmakers and scientists from 16 countries to camp out with us at a hostel in Paris for the 2015 COP21 Climate Summit, we weren’t sure who would show up, or how things would go.

It turned out even better than we imagined. About 80 people, from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Switzerland, Spain, the U.S, and Zimbabwe joined us, for all or part of the two-week COP21, at St. Christopher’s Inn Canal, sister hostel of the Place to B. The hostel, and a nearby rented apartment, turned out to be great venues for formal, organized workshops, plus a lot of informal networking and ad hoc meetings.

We went to Paris with a message of hope: Regenerative food, farming and land use can cool the planet and feed the world. Our intention was to change the climate conversation because to date, the conversation has focused almost exclusively on emissions reduction. We absolutely must reduce fossil fuel emissions. But emissions reduction is only a 50-percent solution. Even if we were to cut all human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions today, the globe would continue to warm for decades or even centuries to come.

However, there is hope. There is growing scientific evidence that regenerative agriculture can reverse climate change by drawing carbon into the soil through the natural process of photosynthesis, while at the same time delivering other essential ecological, economic and health benefits.

Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association and Via Organica, and a member of the RI Steering Committee, told one gathering:soil story eiffel

“A growing number of us here in Paris are determined to change the prevailing gloom and doom conversation on climate, and instead focus on practical solutions, Global regeneration requires a revolution, not only in our thinking, but in our heretofore tunnel vision. We need to move beyond mere mitigation or sustainability concepts that simply depress or demobilize people to a bold new global strategy of regeneration,” he added.

Success! The climate conversation evolves!

We accomplished our goal in Paris. We helped change the conversation. For the first time, the international community now recognizes the potential for healthy soils to reverse climate change.

On December 1, 2015, France launched a global initiative endorsed by 100 partners, including 25 countries. The “4 per 1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate” consists of a voluntary action plan under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda (LPAA) that aims to show that food security and combating climate change are complementary. The initiative also positions farmers as the pioneering climate heroes of our generation.

Commenting on the French 4 per 1000 Initiative, André Leu, president of IFOAM Organics International, said:

“We know we can put carbon in the soil. The world has accepted it. Now we have to talk about how to scale this up. What we are about to do now is change agriculture forever. It is the biggest paradigm shift in the history of the climate change movement. On December 1-2, agriculture finally made it into the climate talks. It went from being ignored to being central to climate change. This is huge. The time for talking is finished. Now is the time for doing. The technology is available to everyone. It is up to us to mobilize in time. Let’s start working to get this done and give our world a better future.”

The words “agriculture” and “soil carbon” do not explicitly appear in the official UNFCCC agreement. But that’s okay!  Here’s why. Each country is required to provide something called an Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), a document in which they outline their plan for climate mitigation and adaptation. According to an analysis conducted by CGIAR of the first 150 country INDCs submitted ahead of the UN climate talks, 80 percent of commitments included agriculture in mitigation targets, and 64 percent included agriculture in their adaptation strategies.” Under the Lima-Paris Action Agenda, these INDCs will be reviewed every five years and do not begin until 2020.

“It is important to understand that there is plenty of scope to have farming and soil carbon included in the INDCs between now and 2020,” Leu said.

Demonstrations, press conferences, workshops and more!

In addition to attending the formal COP21 negotiations, the RI delegation participated in and hosted a variety of alternative events, workshops and demonstrations.

Here’s a list of some notable events RI members either organized, sponsored or participated in:

  • On November 29, we joined tens of thousands of activists who took to the streets to peacefully defy the French government’s ban on street demonstrations. A delegation of North and Latin American regeneration activists joined the protest, holding hands in a human chain stretching for miles. We lined up at the corner of Boulevard Voltaire and Allée du Philosophe. Our section of the animated chain, designated “solutions,” was punctuated with colorful homemade signs, T-shirts and banners. We were a boisterous group, whose most popular chant, repeated over and over again in Spanish, English and French, drew smiles and thumbs-up reactions from Parisians passing by:“El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido” or “The people united will never be defeated”.
  • On December 3, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), IFOAM International Organics, Navdanya, Regeneration International (RI), and Millions Against Monsanto, joined by dozens of global food, farming and environmental justice groups, held a press conference to  announce that they will organize a citizens tribunal to hold Monsanto accountable for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide. The tribunal will take place next year, The Hague, Netherlands, beginning October 12 and ending on World Food Day, October 16, 2016.
  • Also on December 3, 2015, Kiss the Ground, Project Drawdown, and RI hosted a workshop on regenerative agriculture and land use which brought together soil and carbon enthusiasts. Participants exchanged skills and knowledge on regenerative agriculture and land use, soil carbon sequestration, climate change mitigation. Some, like Pedro Diniz, also shared ecosystem restoration success stories. Pedro and his team shared the inspiring story of how they restored Fazenda da Toca. Today, this large-scale family-owned organic farm in Brazil’s São Paulo state is changing the future of ecological agriculture.
  • On World Soil Day, December 5, 2015, which coincided with COP21, artists, environmental and spiritual leaders, seed defenders, community supported agriculture networks, and concerned citizens gathered at La Villette in Paris and planted a ‘Garden of Hope’.  We launched a Pact with the Earth and with each other to defend our commons—our seeds, soil, water, biodiversity, air and climate systemsessential to building climate resilience. We reaffirmed that in regenerative agriculture and local food systems lie the answers to the food, nutrition and health crises, water and climate crises, and the refugee crisis caused by climate instability.
  • On December 6, we hosted a workshop at the People’s Climate Summit where panelists and participants discussed a 2016 action plan for global regeneration. Precious Phiri (EarthWisdom Consulting) highlighted the importance of eating regeneratively. “Education in Southern Africa is key. I get rejection from the educated in Zimbabwe because there is dependency. People think that we need GMOs, we need industrial agriculture to survive,” she said. Laura Lengnick, author of “Resilient Agriculture,” called for the transformation of the food system: “The way we eat has a lot to do with how our communities are organized,” she said.
  • On December 7, over 100 people gathered at La REcyclerie, an urban farm in the heart of Paris and also considered a DESTINATION COP21, to hear a series of short talks and engage in discussions around the theme “Cool the Planet, Feed the World: The Power of Regenerative Food and Farming to Save the Planet.”  La REcyclerie’s mission leading up to COP21 was to educate citizens about the fight against climate change.

What can you do?

(1) Change the climate conversation in your local community or in your local organization from doom and gloom to one of positive solutions, based upon the regeneration perspective. Join Regeneration International’s Facebook page. Publicize and share strategic articles, videos and best practices. If you need to study up on how soil sequestration works, read and re-read this pamphlet and go through the major articles in our annotated bibliography.

(2) Join or help organize a local or regional regeneration working group. If you’re ready to become a Regeneration International organizer send an email to info@regenerationinternational.org.

(3) Boycott the industrial food system. Regenerate your health and your diet. Get ready to join OCA and Regeneration International’s soon-to-be-announced global campaign and boycott against Monsanto, factory farms, GMO animal feeds, biofuels and so-called “Climate-Smart Agriculture.” One of the most important things you can do today and every day is to buy and consume organic, grass-fed, locally produced, climate friendly foods.

(4) Help organize and plan regeneration conferences and meetings. Make your plans now to attend our Regeneration International global climate and biodiversity summit in Mexico City December. 1-3, 2016.

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