Carbon Sequestration, Agriculture and the INDCs; the role of agriculture in the conversation on climate

By Jesse Way

Here in Paris the discussion around how we will limit global temperature rise often focuses on the decarbonization of the energy industry. It is generally accepted here at COP 21 (from nearly every country of the world except Saudi Arabia and those it has been speaking on behalf of) for the need to move from an economy reliant on carbon polluting fossil fuels to one that is based on renewable energy sources. The need for change is acknowledged – the debate here remains more focused on how fast that transition must take place, how much it will cost and who is going to pay for it.

The role of forestry and the need to reduce deforestation is also recognized as our worlds forests play an essential role in sequestering carbon and therefore mitigating the dangerous effects of increasing carbon emissions.

However a third player in this conversation – agriculture – remains for the most part on the sidelines of discussions. How can the sector that is responsible for feeding the world remain such a marginalized component of the conversation? Agriculture, and more particularly small holder farmers and the need to improve their livelihoods, productivity and ecological resilience was a featured topic at this past weekends Global Landscapes Forum but here at COP it is often described only on the fringes of other conversations. We sit here today with not a single instance of the word ‘agriculture’ appearing in the draft agreement.

Although absent from the draft text, over 80% of countries do refer to agriculture in their INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions aka how much each country is proposing to cut carbon emissions by). This overwhelming majority of countries mentioning agriculture demonstrates the importance improved methods of food production will play in accomplishing the carbon reduction goals set out by individual countries.

This integral role of agriculture in the conversation on climate was finally made more visible through the side event: ‘Carbon Sequestration, Agriculture and the INDCs: Soils for Food Security and Climate’.

As mentioned agriculture is absent from the Paris draft text agreement released yesterday; food security is mentioned but its role is very much under-appreciated. It was highlighted during the session that there should be as much of a focus on the carbonization of our agricultural systems as there is on the decarbonization of our energy sectors.

The recent launch of the 4p1000 initiative (http://4p1000.org) is a part of the drive to better acknowledge the role of soil carbon sequestration in not only mitigating carbon concentrations in our atmosphere but also increasing the productivity and profitability of agricultural landscapes. The premise is simple: by increasing soil carbon by 0.4% per year in agricultural landscapes we can sequester enough carbon to halt the annual increase of CO2 to our atmosphere.

Agroecological farming practises that lead to increasing soil carbon content are an essential component of achieving global food security, climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as improving the livleihoods of small holder farmers around the world. Through improved pasture grazing, better utilization of cover crops, the addition of perennials into annual crop production, agroforestry practises and other means of more agroecological farming we can not only feed the world but also combat climate change!

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

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The Arctic, where 2°C means 8°C. Listening to the stories of indigenous peoples

The Arctic, where 2°C means 8°C. Listening to the stories of indigenous peoples

By Justine Moonens

In yesterday’s blog Jesse talked about the disconnect he felt when attending events in Paris. I totally share his opinion. Most side events here are just promotion for the solutions, or non-solutions, that countries and businesses are promoting. But, sometimes you can find a rare gem and actually learn something meaningful. Yesterday, I attended a session about indigenous peoples in the artic and the role of youth organised by the Nordic youth council. I left the event with the feeling that these peoples message should be spread. Instead of being held in a small backroom somewhere, this session should have been one of the main side events.

For the WP_20151208indigenous peoples in Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia a 2°C global increase in means an 8°C increase and the eradication of their way of life. We are only starting to notice the effects of climate change, but they are already living with the consequences since the 1980’s.In Alaska several communities had to be relocated over the last years due to coastal erosion.The Sami people in Lapland are loosing hundreds of reindeers each years to ice breaks in places that 10 years ago used to be totally safe. Since the 1990’s climate change is a political priority for them and they are very active in advocating their position. Despite all these efforts, their governments are still not hearing them.Many projects are taking place in their territories without their consent or any prior discussion.

The climate solutions promoted at the COP often mean the end of their way of life. A Sami woman told us that in Sweden mountaintops are  blown up to install windmill parks. These mountains are crucial for the reindeer herds on which many Sami depend. Many communities have become unable to continue their way of life. Climate change mitigation at this price is  unacceptable. These sort of practices take place everywhere in the world. This morning on the shuttle to le Bourget I heard the stories from two indigenous women about what REDD+ really means for them. Since the start of REDD+ projects several communities in her region have been displaced. Even if this should not be happening according to the safeguards! Another women told that carbon credits are allowing oil refineries to increase their greenhouse gas emissions. This causes serious respiratory disorders and other health problems in her community. For them REDD+ is just a way to sell the air.

It is more than worrying that civil society is being excluded from the negotiations. To ever have an equitable agreement these voices of indigenous people, youth and the whole of civil society should be heard. Not only heard but taken into account. At the national and regional level, indigenous people need to have decision-making power in the projects that affect them.

I want to end this article by reflecting on the words with which the Sami woman ended her talk,

we are the land, we are the water, we are the wind

While I think we are to disconnected from our living environment to be applicable to us. We should reconsider our relationship with the earth.We, as society, cannot go on living like we are completely detached from our ecosystems and act like there are no planetary boundaries. Which is what many here at COP still believe.

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the International Forestry Students’ Association.

Justice and Future Generations: Achieving Intergenerational Equity in Paris and Beyond

By Olivia Sánchez Badini

Today I attended one of the 200+ official side events that are taking place over the next two weeks: a panel on intergenerational equity. Many youth experts on the legal, economic, and policy dimensions of intergenerational equity took the stage, including the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, who called for youth solidarity and the need to consolidate this global justice movement for it to be a strong part of the new agreement on climate change.

But what does intergenerational equity actually mean? In the environmental context, it refers to the fairness in the distribution of resources, and the rights to their exploitation, not only over space, but over time. In a way, it is one of the theoretical underpinnings of the concept of sustainable development, with the implicit need to recognize the rights of future generations. UNFCCC includes this language in its principles, and it is therefore expected the new agreement will also incorporate it.

From an economic perspective, there are serious issues resulting from a lack of intergenerational equity. As Timothy Damon from SustainUS explained, the benefit-cost analysis of climate change mitigation does not look favourable – in part because these analyses do not give equal weight to what will happen in the future, and don’t take into account the cost of inaction.

There is a bias for the present, and current economic structures are discounting future generations – Timothy Damon

The concept of intergenerational equity that is often presented, however, and the one that youth are currently advocating for to be included in the new agreement, is very much part of the mainstream Eurocentric political discourse, according to Nimra Amjad, founder of Pakistan Sustainability Network. It does not incorporate the knowledge of indigenous peoples, the Global South, and other underrepresented people.

It’s time to take action. Let’s push the boundaries of what that action really means – Nimra Amjad, about setting the legal precedent and taking legal action against governments violating the rights of future generations

The youth in the Global South have a huge stake at play in the new climate agreement: the majority of the population in these regions that will be disproportionately affected is under 25. “Be our allies”, stated Nimra Amjad, “we really need more voices representing the Global South”. A statement on behalf of youth from Fiji reinforced these ideas, calling the world to stand with the people from small island developing countries,  which will feel the impacts of climate change the most.

To everyone and anyone listening, hear our voice and stand with us – Fiji Youth

How can we challenge this notion and these concepts surrounding intergenerational equity; how can we change our language to be more inclusive? What role does intergenerational equity play in forest management, forest policies that affect land use change, and forestry education? How can negotiations and discussions related to forestry better include the youth perspective, and the perspective from youth from the Global South and other underrepresented communities?

Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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Timothy Damon, SustainUS. Photo: Olivia Sánchez Badini

COP21 – First Day: Side Event on Climate Change Communication

By Simeon Max
The first day at COP21 was great – a wealth of impressions:  Hundreds or even thousands of people from all around the world, countless presentations by countries, NGOs, and other groups. Trying to get myself organized and decide on my schedule.
One very interesting event that I have attended was the IPCC Side Event entitled “From science to solutions: uses and strategies of IPCC communications for a climate-changing world”. The panelists provided insights on the existing strategies and concerns in communicating hard scientific data to a broad community, including policy makers, media, companies, the public, et cetera. As most of us IFSA students are scientists, we can ask ourselves similar questions: How would you design a scientific report to make it understandable by everyone? Which channels would you use to communicate?
A glimpse on future IPCC reports… According to Housing Lee, Chair of the IPCC, plans are to emphasize more the possible solutions to climate change, and base these solutions on the underlying drivers. Referring to climate services such as social justice, water sufficiency or clean air in cities, I want to conclude with a quote from Paul Lussier, Director of the Science Communications with Impact Network at the Yale University: “We shouldn’t keep asking: What can you do for the climate? But rather explore: What can the climate do for you?”
Please leave your comments below! Let us know if you want different or additional information! We will listen to you!
Stay tuned…

First day at COP21 – Three first side events

By Simon Lhoest

Hi IFSA Community!

Here is my report for the first day of COP21 in Paris! Unfortunately, we were not allowed to assist at the opening ceremony. Thousands of people are present in Le Bourget and we have observers’ badges, allowing us to access only at some key events during the conference. At the site of COP21, there are several halls with a lot of rooms dedicated to exhibits, conferences on key topics, meetings, TV interviews and press reporters. The main interesting activities that we can share with you are side events: these are conferences of 1.5 hours consisting of key speakers’ presentations followed by Q/A. Here is a short resume of the three side events that I have followed today.

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The first side event was about the key issues of COP21, especially for developing countries. The main objective of this COP is to know where we are going in terms of global temperature increase for the future. This is also the occasion to revise the previous agreements and to deal with adaptation as a consequence of climate change (notably for losses and damages), even if the possible actions are quite limited. Su Wei, the representative of China, also insisted on the importance of developed countries responsibility in historical GHG emissions. They consequently have the duty to use technologies and funding to help developing countries for limiting poverty and climate change. New agreements will definitively be based on climate justice (i.e. climate finance). This concept is not the same as solidarity, but just an application of historical responsibilities. However, negotiators only have three days to make an agreement on those points. The Prime Minister of India, Ravi Prasad, also added that developing countries already have ambitious programs to limit their GHG emissions but they are not still enough to stay below a global increase of 2 degrees. The use of previous funds allowed from developed countries to developing ones is not clear and will have to be explained in details in future negotiations.

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The second side event that I followed was a debate around concrete projects linked to REDD+ framework at the interface of biodiversity, climate change and human rights. Presentations were focusing on the cases of Madagascar, Brazil and Indonesia. The island of Madagascar is currently in a concrete phase for REDD+ development, for diverse types of ecosystems: mangroves, restored forests, etc. In Brazil, some local initiatives show that a real coalition between local stakeholders is possible to reduce deforestation. Even if illegal activities continue and no commitment for restoration of forests is taken, the rate of deforestation in Brazilian Amazon rainforest is really lower (more than 80% lower) that in the beginning of the century. However, the Cerrado forests are today more deforested that Amazonian forest in Brazil. In Indonesia, annually deforested areas reached more than 800,000 hectares in 2012, mainly because of palm oil plantations. The RSPO certification is currently applied in some of the palm oil exploited areas.

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The third and last side event for me on Monday the 30th November was analyzing the opportunity of climate change to accelerate integration and development of Africa. This continent is heavily impacted by climate change, mainly with intense droughts and floods. Generally, droughts in a zone are counterbalanced by higher crops productions in other regions. There is therefore a high necessity to integrate and optimize the system of crops production and trade at an adapted scale. For the future, it will also be necessary to work more on risks assessment. The observing systems have to be improved. Indeed, for example, climatic data are not sufficient among the whole continent to rely on robust statistic analyses. There is also a high necessity to make a junction between scientists and institutions dealing with climate challenges.

Do not hesitate to make comments and stay connected to follow our news every day during this decisive conference!

Simon