What Happened at the UNFCCC COP26 and How RI Could Promote Soil Health and Regenerative Agriculture to Reverse Climate Change at COP27 in Egypt
GLASGOW: In November of last year, Regeneration International sent a delegation to Glasgow, Scotland, to attend the 26th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Nearly 200 countries negotiate emissions reductions and climate change mitigation goals to limit global temperature rise by 1,5C.
Days before attending, the 4 Per 1000 Initiative online platform notified its partners that Soil Heroes, a small foundation based in the Netherlands were calling all carbon farming advocates to sign an open letter addressed to Alok Sharma the CEO of the UNFCCC COP26 to recognize soil health as a major solution to climate mitigation – an initiative we decided to support and share with the world.
While the letter received many positive feedbacks and support from prominent organizations and activists in the food and agriculture space, we didn’t hear from the very people to whom it was addressed (COP26 President and CEO). However, it is important to understand that countries are required to set themselves Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) which are non-binding national plans highlighting climate action, climate-related targets for greenhouse gas reductions, policies and measures governments aim to implement in response to climate change and contribute to achieving the global targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
The great news is that to this day 28 countries have chosen to highlight soil organic carbon into their NDCs. Though this shows the momentum soil health is gaining, we urgently need more countries to follow this course.
Therefore, we are actively working to make an updated open letter addressed to world COP27 in Egypt next year. Here we will shine a light on the NDCs of countries towards soil health, calling on other world leaders to follow them, and pressing parties to lobby for investments towards scaling up regenerative agricultural practices worldwide.
The outcomes from COP26 on agriculture and food:
According to UN Climate Change News « Significant progress has been made at COP26 in both reducing the impact of climate change on the agriculture sector and lowering the sector’s contribution to global warming. »
Governments found agreement on three of the six topics included in the ‘Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture’ (KJWA). This process was scheduled to finish at COP26, but as the sessions wrapped up at the end of the conference, the text remained heavily bracketed, indicating many areas of disagreement. Governments agreed on the need to continue working on Agriculture under the UNFCCC process with a view to adopting a decision at COP27 in Egypt in 2022…
Governments acknowledged that soil and nutrient management practices and the optimal use of nutrients lie at the core of climate-resilient, sustainable food production systems and can contribute to global food security.
The World Bank will commit to spending $25 billion in climate finance annually to 2025 through its Climate Action Plan, including a focus on agriculture and food systems.
Global Methane Pledge: an US and EU-led initiative involving more than 100 countries responsible for about 50% of global methane emissions, committing to reduce their methane emissions by 30%from 2020 levels by 2030.
Policy Action Agenda for a Just Transition to Sustainable Food and Agriculture: an effort led by the COP26 Presidency, the World Bank and Just Rural Transition. Supported by 16 countries representing 11% of global emissions from agriculture. Some of the proposed actions include repurposing subsidies that incentivize harmful agricultural practices, investment in R&D for agricultural innovation, and designing inclusive processed for consulting and communication with stakeholders.
45 governments pledged urgent action and investment to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming. All continents were represented, with countries including India, Colombia, Vietnam, Germany, Ghana, and Australia. Examples of national commitments include:
- Germany’s plans to lower emissions from land use by 25m tons by 2030
- The UK’s aim to engage 75% of farmers in low carbon practices by 2030
- Australia’s net-zero strategy which includes improved management of ¼ of its cropland and reducing emissions from agriculture by 36% from 2005 levels by 2030, through “storing carbon in vegetation and soils” and “voluntary land-based offsets”
Still no reference to “regenerative agriculture” or any other close term. One of the major sticking points in the Koronivia work was the proposed inclusion of a reference to “agroecology”. The Africa group, the Least-Developed Countries and the EU were “strong champions” in pushing for the text to mention agroecology. The US and India were among the countries opposed to its inclusion. The term remains in still unresolved brackets, which will be discussed again at COP27…
The funding commitments were still very much focused on halting deforestation.
All of the announcements rely on voluntary commitments, with no enforcement mechanisms.
Some say that the Global Methane Pledge focuses too much on reducing emissions from fossil fuels and not enough on livestock and other agricultural emissions. Fossil fuel supply chains account for 35% of human-driven methane emissions while 40% are coming from agriculture.
AIM4C has been criticized for its over-reliance on technology like genetically modified crops, climate-smart agriculture, and R&D, rather than sustainable farming methods such as regenerative agriculture.
Marrakesh Partnership and the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA)
How regenerative movement organizations accredited to the UNFCCC have their say at the next COP27 negotiations.
Writing an open letter to world leaders such as the one by Soil Heroes we promoted is a good step for the regenerative movement. But, as a civil society representing grassroots realities, how can we make our voices heard to the very people involved in climate negotiations and working to implement NDCs?
- Through the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, the UNFCCC takes into account submissions from parties and observers (such as RI) to recommend and advocate key strategies for stakeholders to reach the Paris Agreement targets through agriculture.
Consequently, regenerative movement organizations accredited to the UNFCCC should be mobilized to share a large number of statements to the KJWA ahead of COP27 to incentivize on the cores of action and of our partners, allies, and countries already engaged towards regenerative transitions in agriculture.
Note: countries such as Bhutan whose national food and nutrition security strategy is improving agricultural practices, switching from synthetic to organic fertilizers, and increasing biomass through greater perennial crop and fodder production.
- The Land-use group of the UNFCCC Marrakesh partnership is open to all non-state actors (NGOs, cities, businesses, scientists, farmer organizations…) engaged on land-based climate action towards achieving the Paris Agreements. KWJA statements and recommendations can be discussed within this group, and we encourage all of our networks that are heading to COP27 in Egypt in November of this year to join the Marrakesh Partnership and contribute.
Please read our joint declaration with the Marrakesh Partnership released on 11.11.21
In 2022, RI’s participation at the UNFCCC COP27 will be significant with a renewed collaboration between Soil Heroes and our network of partners to highlight soil health, regenerative agriculture, and tangible actions made by parties through side events, online media, and collaborative contribution to both Marrakesh Partnership and KJWA platforms.
Article written jointly with Soil Heroes.
Oliver Gardiner is Regeneration International’s Eurasia representative and creative media director.