Representatives of more than 100 countries have joined scientists and representatives of civil society to discuss the global response to climate change this week at the United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow. Policymakers and experts are looking at ways to mitigate, and considering ways to adapt to, how the climate is already inevitably changing.
Why are we paying so much attention to these talks?
At the conference, participants are focusing on many climate-improving initiatives, but we’re closely following the ones having to do with land use, especially agriculture, because it contributes about 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Initiatives to address climate change in the agricultural sector are most directly aligned with our mission to repurpose otherwise low value or unused agricultural waste into ingredients and products that help transform the global food system.
One of the key announcements at COP26 is a commitment to ending deforestation. This is a huge step forward, as some of the 100 countries that signed on to the pledge are also ones like Brazil, where deforestation for crops like sugarcane have damaged biodiversity and delicate ecosystems. By protecting those areas, countries can help restore biodiversity and natural areas.
However, deforestation often takes place because of a need to create more land for agriculture. Food supply is a growing problem on a warming planet. As the World Food Program reports, “if average global temperature rises by 2°C from pre-industrial levels, an additional 189 million people are expected to be pushed into hunger. In a 4°C warmer world, this figure could rise to a staggering 1.8 billion.”
Growing more food may seem like a solution, but that food also needs to be farmed efficiently. With crops like corn, grains, and sugarcane, much of the plant never makes it into human food systems. But with Supplant’s sugars from fiber, it becomes possible to get much more out of every acre, so we don’t have to cut down as many trees.
Notably, in connection with COP26, representatives from ten global agricultural commodity companies, including ADM, Cargill, Louis Dreyfus Company, and Viterra, announced their collective intent for improving the agri-commodity sector. The 10 signing companies have a collective annual revenue of more than $500 billion USD, and the sector includes not just growers, but those who trade, process, manufacture, sell, and consume agricultural products.
The group of companies promised that they would “build on our shared efforts, working with governments, farmers, and other key stakeholders in our supply chains, to accelerate sector-wide action and to identify opportunities for public-private collaboration to catalyse further progress on eliminating commodity driven deforestation.”
The big producers aren’t the only ones who are stepping up to the challenge. The International Fund for Agriculture and Development is drawing attention to the role of small-scale farmers, pointing out that they, too, have a responsibility to participate in climate change discussions, and make change that will have a wider positive impact on rural and impoverished communities.
The fund announced that it will be “promoting the role of small-scale producers in climate change adaptation and mitigation and creating resilient food systems. Small-scale producers must be at the centre of climate change discussions as they are greatly underserved by climate finance. Bringing rural small-scale producers out of poverty and food insecurity will make positive, cascading contributions to meeting both the humanitarian and environmental goals of the 2030 Agenda.”
In addition, IFAD is promoting nature-based solutions as a way to help mitigate climate change, including protecting forests, and sustainably managing land and water use.
Countries themselves are making strides for better agricultural methods as well. The United States and United Arab Emirates have just announced a $400 billion commitment to developing better agricultural technologies as part of the The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate). The initiative includes more than 30 countries including the UK and Canada, and seeks to boost investment in agricultural science and innovation toward solving the climate crisis.
At Supplant, we welcome all of these initiatives because they’re in line with our own efforts to help the planet, and they demonstrate the kind of global commitment that it will require. We’re all in this together — we’re proud of those who step up to make a difference.