Regenerative Agriculture creates traction after COP27
Published on: January 28, 2023
Regenerative agriculture was one of the major themes in discussions at COP27. reNature’s founder Felipe Villela represented the organization at the 27th Conference of the Parties to work together with other global leaders in suggesting and implementing solutions to climate and food security related issues.
The 27th annual United Nations Climate Change Conference – known as COP27 and hosted by Egypt – ended on November 20, 2022. World leaders gathered to work towards the implementation of existing climate agreements and discuss urgent actions to address climate change. After a hard week of negotiations, parties secured a deal to keep the targets of the Paris Agreement alive which is a key step towards climate justice. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, 194 countries agreed to achieve individual emissions reduction targets and contribute to keeping average global temperature change below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C by the end of the century.
Regenerative agriculture becomes a global priority
Although it is not new to industry insiders, more and more people have been hearing the expression “regenerative agriculture” since not so long ago.
The term “regenerative agriculture” was coined in the early 1980s and it has been used very sporadically until 2014. As confirmed by Google Trends, the research frequency of “regenerative agriculture” has been quite irrelevant until mid-2019. Thenceforth, regenerative agriculture started getting ever more mainstream and the research frequency reached a peak in November 2022, right in concomitance with the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27).
Moreover, starting in 2020 and driven forward by the pandemic and the need to find solutions against climate change, several multinational corporations in the food industry announced commitments and huge investments in regenerative farming.
2030 Agenda: the time is up
At current trends, we seriously risk missing the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. The devastating and far-reaching consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war against Ukraine turned back the clock and wiped out the small progresses that have been made so far.
Now more than ever, Sustainable Development Goals commitments need a broader, bolder, and more ambitious approach.
Food systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions and some alarming data tell us how far we are from the SDGs:
- one-fifth of the earth’s land area (i.e. more than 2 billion hectares) is degraded
- 62% of species are threatened by agriculture
- over 15% of food is lost before leaving the farm significantly impacting climate change
- about 500 million farmers live in poverty
- 828 million people go to bed hungry every night
- on average, agriculture accounts for 70% of all freshwater withdrawals
COP27: Small-scale farmers ask for funds to adapt to climate change
Finally, food systems and agriculture are officially included in UN talks.
Extreme climate events such as wildfires, droughts, and floods are threatening food security on a global scale. Since an urgent response is needed, organizations representing more than 350 thousand small-scale farmers wrote a letter to world leaders warning them that global food supplies are at risk. During COP27, farmers asked for a more sustainable and fairer food system: governments have to increase funds to facilitate a climate change adaptation and the transition to more diversified and nature-based farming systems, such as regenerative agriculture.
Farmers sent a loud and clear message: global food systems are not properly equipped to face climate change impacts and need to be rethought to tackle climate change and systemic inequalities.
Small-scale farmers are crucial for global food security since they produce about 80% of the food eaten in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Nevertheless, in 2018 they barely received a 1,7% of climate finance: 10 billion dollars, which is nothing compared to the estimated 240 billion dollars a year they need.
Regenerative agriculture = future
In response to the issues that came up within the conference, the COP27 presidency launched the Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) initiative aimed at scaling up climate finance to transform agriculture by 2030.
Hence, COP27 represents an opportunity for regenerative agriculture to rise and it could be the driving force for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals. Supporting farmers to adapt to climate change and scaling regenerative agriculture practices must be the primary strategies after COP27. Farmers, especially small-scale ones, are an important part of the solution to climate change and food security issues, but everyone has a role to play in this process: consumers, multinational corporations, investors, governments, activists, and nonprofit organizations.
Now that big players in the food industry and politicians from leading countries are bringing regenerative solutions into the conversation, it is time to go from talks and discussions to practical and concrete actions.
What to expect after COP27
Several financial pledges and commitments were made during COP27 aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change in vulnerable regions. The results of these commitments will start taking effect in the coming years, and this is seen as:
- More farmers transition to regenerative agriculture through enabling initiatives such as regen10, aimed at scaling indigenous and regenerative agriculture practices.
- More private companies and NGOs embark on decarbonization projects such as agroforestry to achieve the net-zero target.
- Governments set up policies to reduce carbon emissions, especially from transportation and conventional agricultural systems.
As stakeholders begin to effectively discharge their responsibilities in reversing climate change effects, impacts made should also be measured. Tools to evaluate how much greenhouse gas emissions are reducing over time, or carbon drawdown in a given period must also be put in place.