Paris conference: food security and climate change mitigation

richard wrightRichard Wright (the Scottish Farmer) reported in December that the United Nations Lima-Paris Action Agenda is aimed at “robust global action towards low carbon and resilient societies” as countries, businesses and NGOs signed on to a series of new commitments under the agenda, including several on agriculture.

COPA, which represents European farm unions, helped to secure recognition that food security was as important as climate change mitigation. Mr Wright wrote:

“The Paris event was about long term aspirations, and one certainty is that the world population will continue to grow. That makes food security vital, both for developing countries and for those that rely on food imports, since increased demand in the face of restricted supplies can only drive up prices.

“Because this was formally recognised, article two of the COP 21 agreement says that climate change mitigation policies can only be pursued in a way “that does not threaten food production”. This is a big concession for agriculture.

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“Green groups have been pressing for unrealistic targets to cut methane emissions from livestock; they also want new targets to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, and the European Commission had bought into some of these arguments. In reality, any such measures in Europe would have had little impact on a global scale, so long as others are building new power stations.

“The farming lobby, thanks to Article 2, can now argue that these can only be imposed if they can be effective without threatening food production.

“But this does not mean the farming lobby can simply play this card and seek to block any change. Farmers need to make clear to the commission and the wider public that they accept the need for climate change measures, because they are the first in society to suffer from changes to weather patterns. The industry must make it clear that agriculture wants to be part of the solution and play a key part in delivering on the Paris aspirations.

“If, as scientists predict, we are on our way to warmer, wetter summers and winters it will certainly adversely affect Scottish and indeed European agriculture. That means it is in farmers’ interest that climate change is tackled in a way that is effective.

“If this is to happen, the commission must be ready to invest a lot more time and effort in finding ways to cut methane output from livestock, without affecting farm productivity or food production. That is a big challenge, but one the commission will have to accept rather than simply imposing targets.

“If farming is to be seen to deliver, more will also have to be invested to allow the industry to produce a carbon balance sheet

“This would show how carbon from producing food under commercial conditions is offset by farm land in general, and forestry in particular, acting as a sink or means of carbon sequestration”.

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As André Leu, president of IFOAM, an organization that promotes organic agriculture and carbon farming worldwide, said in an earlier post on this website, “This is a game changer because soil carbon is now central to how the world manages climate change.”

William Taylor, speaking on behalf of Farmers for Action NI, calls for the introduction of systems like that in the pre-EU Isle of Man system, where regional produce, which must come from the nearest source, must all be used first before any is imported.

Referring to the wasteful and polluting food swap practice highlighted by then MEP Dr Caroline Lucas, Mr Taylor says that it is not logical for the US to support a climate change conference in Paris and then continue to have the same food (for instance, beef) sailing from UK to the US whilst another ship sails from US to the UK with the same cargo.

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