EDF Talks Global Climate

Sowing the seeds of a roadmap for agriculture

Photo credit Dr Huynh Quang Tin

Low carbon rice production in Vietnam. Dr Huynh Quang Tin

At last November’s COP23 in Germany, Parties involved in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations on agriculture celebrated a notable victory after agreeing to create the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). The KJWA marks a shift in focus from agricultural adaptation activities only, to a broader discussion of mitigation related activities. While COP23 Parties did not decide on the details of the KJWA, such as the “how” and the “when,” the outcome generated much needed momentum for the agriculture agenda of the UNFCCC.

In the lead up to the Bonn climate change negotiations that concluded last week, Parties and observers submitted their views on the “what”, “how”, and “when” of the KJWA. The Parties kept a very constructive – and even friendly – discourse in negotiation sessions, building off of last year’s positive COP23 outcome and increasing focus on implementation. The developing country group known as the G&77 + China, building off a New Zealand-led proposal, was very active in coordinating the creation of a roadmap for the KJWA. By the end of the first week, Parties agreed to draft conclusions outlining the roadmap.

Now with the UN secretariat for adoption, this roadmap provides an agenda of activities that includes workshops, topic submissions, and workshop reports every six months between now and the end of 2020. The series of workshops will cover the following topics:

  • How to implement the outcomes from the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency held before last year’s COP decision;
  • Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits, and resilience;
  • Improved soil carbon, soil health, and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management;
  • Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems;
  • Improved livestock management systems, including agropastoral production systems and others; and
  • Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agriculture sector.

Submissions on topics for each workshop will be solicited prior to each session, followed by the preparation of a report after each workshop.

The first activity on the roadmap—submissions on implementing the outcomes of the five in-session workshops on adaptation and resiliency—is due on October 22, 2018. Considering that Parties in Bonn solicited external inputs for current and future discussions, organizations like the Environmental Defense Fund have the opportunity to help advance the KJWA roadmap. By providing technical assistance, content, and process inputs, EDF and other organizations will support the work of Parties under the KJWA and maintain momentum. It is imperative to use this time to determine what issues to focus on during this series of workshops and how to operationalize the outcomes.

As reflected by the nature of the KJWA itself, shifting focus to implementation and tangible actions to help actors in the agriculture sector respond to climate change is essential if we are to meet the climate goals laid out in the Paris Agreement.

Also posted in UN negotiations / Leave a comment

Cocoa partnerships: How collaboration helps the Arhuacos of Colombia conserve the forest and improve economic opportunity

Women from the Arhuaco indigenous nation of Colombia prepare to process cocoa produced for sustainable chocolate company Original Beans. Photo by Original Beans

This post was co-authored by Chris Meyer, Senior Manager of Amazon Forest Policy at EDF, and Sybelle VanAntwerp, Community Economic Development Volunteer serving with the Peace Corps in Colombia. It originally appeared on peacecorps.gov. En español.

The story behind Dutch chocolate company Original Beans’ Arhuaco Businchari chocolate bar begins in the tropical forest covered Sierra Nevada region of Colombia, on the Caribbean coast in the northern reaches of South America. That is where the indigenous Arhuaco nation has been able to cultivate, harvest, and sell cocoa successfully for the past two years, improving the economic opportunities for their communities while conserving the precious forest around them.

This past March, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) organized a workshop in Bogotá that provided the Arhuaco community a platform for knowledge sharing. It also sponsored a visit by a cocoa buyer. This fruitful collaboration was made possible with the help of the US government’s Peace Corps program and EcoDecision’s Canopy Bridge, with USAID funding. It’s an example that shows how collaboration is key to conserving the remaining tropical forests and supporting indigenous peoples to develop alternative economic activities that align with their cultural values. For the Arhuacos, the collaboration is already generating results and they are sharing their experience with entrepreneurial indigenous groups throughout the country.

The buyer visit, a key element of this collaboration, took place at the Arhuaco cocoa processing center just outside of Santa Marta, Magdalena. Jan Schubert, from Original Beans, the Arhuacos’ principal European partner, spent almost two weeks in the region promoting community cocoa initiatives. According to Original Beans, the company has a distinctive vision to “replenish what we consume” – focusing on biodiverse agroecosystems, reforestation, sustainable value chains, and community involvement. It is more than just a chocolate company. Currently, Original Beans makes their own Arhuaco Businchari bar, has an exclusive agreement for single-origin couverture with JRE Europe restaurants, and also recently started selling cocoa beans to small-scale chocolate makers through the Original Beans warehouse in Amsterdam.

Schubert explained, “With the Arhuaco community’s Colombian buyer, Cacao de Colombia, Original Beans aims to buy 10 metric tons of cocoa beans during the 2018 harvest, supporting indigenous livelihoods with a stable price more than double the market average.”

Challenges of organic certification

During the visit, Schubert supported several efforts, including working closely with members of the Arhuaco community association ASOARHUACO to plan out the next steps in the organic certification process. This will be crucial in the coming year to increase Arhuaco cocoa’s commercial value and reach a wider market segment in Europe. Although the community’s cocoa production is yet to be certified, Arhuaco producers follow organic cultivation principles aligned with their cultural values. Challenges of geography and communication make organic certification especially difficult. Original Beans used this most recent visit as an opportunity to strategize with association leaders, especially around the organization of baseline GPS information for each producer that will be evaluated by the certification body.

In the remote Arhuaco village of Bunkwimake in the higher altitudes, the vision is to continue developing a nursery that will house native tree species and eventually rescued cacao bunsi, or white cocoa, which is a unique variety that is native to the Sierra Nevada. Original Beans donated materials to construct a nursery and is exploring the possibility of installing an irrigation system, collaborating closely with community leaders and advisors to determine the next steps of support.

A girl from the Arhuaco indigenous nation in Northern Colombia samples a selection of chocolate bars from Original Beans, a sustainable chocolate company that is partnering with the Arhuaco nation on cocoa production. Photo by Original Beans.

Indigenous entrepreneurship

Arhuaco indigenous leaders have begun looking to share their experiences with commercializing cocoa and coffee beyond their community. Arhuaco leaders Francisco Villafaña and Jader Mejía presented their experiences at the Third Macro-Territorial Meeting on Economies for Indigenous Peoples of the Northeastern Amazon in Bogotá. Organized by EDF, the GAIA Amazonas Foundation, and Global Green Growth Institute, the workshop served as a noteworthy moment of capacity building between indigenous communities.

Villafaña and Mejía’s presentation told a success story of indigenous entrepreneurship. They spoke about the development of the value chains of both cocoa and coffee, key partners and aid organizations that have helped them in the process, and overarching successes and challenges. One prominent partner that has helped the community since 2009 is USAID and ANADARKO, through the nonprofit ACDI/VOCA; in addition, the community has received national government support through a UNODC alternative livelihoods program to replace illicit use crops. Villafaña and Mejía demonstrated the Arhuacos’ achievements, which serve as a model for other indigenous groups, including creating their own brands and small batches of chocolate bars and coffee through this financing. For the Arhuaco presenters, the forum was invaluable as they continue to develop the marketing skills necessary for successful business growth. Not only were they able to gain experience with public speaking, but they were also able to network with potential business partners.

In response to the Arhuacos’ presentation, workshop participants highlighted that profit is not always a sufficient incentive to develop an economic activity that is in line with indigenous values. The speakers portrayed profit as a tool and resource, rather than an objective, to achieve loftier goals such as increasing market access or infrastructure, improving food sovereignty, and reclaiming territories. The participants supported the idea that communities need to drive their own projects, instead of being led by outsiders that have less of an understanding or stake in the work within the community. Foreign organizations have a greater impact when they empower community leadership, help strengthen existing structures and create learning opportunities within each process so that participants can become self-sufficient in the long-term.

Narratives such as that of ASOARHUACO might generate new ideas among participants for project proposals; there is a significant call for community-driven projects from the Colombian government through its Indigenous Pillar of the Amazon Vision Program (PIVA). Ultimately, Villafaña and Mejía offered the workshop’s participants a shared perspective relevant to Colombia, stemming from a wealth of common experiences in developing economic opportunities consistent with their indigenous culture.

From Bogotá to Bunkwimake, this collaboration is strengthening the Arhuacos’ efforts to market their products and ultimately drive their own processes. It connects the community members with new experiences, opportunities, and partners that empowers individuals and increases the community’s sense of ownership over its cacao production.

The cacao wager has not been won; the community must continue to insist on its short, medium, and long-term objectives. For this reason, it needs to continue carrying out institutional management and leadership to achieve its dreams of the peace, balance, and health of Mother Nature.

 

Also posted in Forestry, Indigenous peoples / 1 Response

Agriculture negotiations reach agreement at COP23

Photo by UNClimateChange

In what could be the iconic decision of COP 23, negotiators in Bonn agreed to new future negotiation processes to “jointly address” a number of new agriculture topics, overcoming longstanding hurdles that had blocked progress on the topic in recent years.

Why is this important?

Emissions from agriculture are expected to continue growing as the world’s population continues to expand and diets change with rising incomes.

However, a recent journal article by Griscom et al. published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found activities under the agriculture and grasslands rubric, such as management of fertilizer use, could achieve roughly 6% of needed emission reductions to stay below a 2 degree temperature change. To realize that potential though, farmers need new tools and incentives.

Additionally, farmers are expecting to find their jobs of growing our food harder as climate change makes weather patterns more unpredictable, and makes climatic events such as droughts and flooding more frequent and intense. Farmers will also need new methods and technologies to make their farms more resilient and adapt to the new conditions.

Agriculture has been discussed for years, but progress had been stymied by disagreement related to potential trade implications on key commodity exports, whether to prioritize adaptation or mitigation in the agenda, and UNFCCC process-oriented concerns on what could and couldn’t be negotiated based on the last agriculture decision.

What’s in the decision?

The negotiators agreed to have the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) review issues associated with agriculture by using workshops and technical expert meetings.

Using both the SBI and SBSTA to review a topic “jointly” is not a frequent negotiation strategy pursued by negotiators. That’s because the complexity of the negotiation rises exponentially when a topic is jointly negotiated rather than negotiated in a single process. But this process was used for the set of policy approaches for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), which ended up being the only sector with its own article in the Paris Agreement.

Regarding topics in agriculture that the processes might first consider, they include:

  • How to assess adaptation, adaptation co-benefits (code for mitigation), and resilience
  • How to improve soil health, soil carbon in grasslands and croplands, and related water management
  • How to improve nutrient management – e.g. more efficient fertilizer use
  • How to improve livestock management systems
  • Studying the socioeconomic and food security issues associated with climate change in the agriculture sector
  • Any of the previous topics discussed in a set of workshops in recent years

Importantly, the negotiators also left other agenda items to be added as needed, which let countries see flexibility in the future to add a topic of more relevance to them.

 What is the timeline for the process?

The decision asks for reports back in three years at COP 26 in 2020. If the process is successful, countries should then have more knowledge and methodologies at their disposal to take action in their respective agriculture sectors in the post-2020 climate regime. At the moment, there is no clear guidance for them on how they might take such action, nor are there incentives for them to do so.

With this momentous decision on agriculture at COP 23, we now have a great opportunity for making our food supply and farmers’ livelihoods more resilient while also contributing to mitigating climate change.

Also posted in Bonn, REDD+ / Leave a comment

What happened to agriculture’s potential for action at the “COP of Action”?

By Jade Lu, Environmental Science and Biology major at Duke University, and Dana Miller, EDF Policy Analyst

November 14, 2016 – the SBSTA closing plenary at COP22 in Marrakesh, photo by Dana Miller

Hailed as the “COP of Action” since before its opening, COP22 no longer holds such promise for agriculture. The scene seemed set for action: the Paris Agreement opened the doors for real progress on agriculture and there were clear commonalities in both country goals and practices. During the negotiations, while there were differences, countries were able to agree on some significant issues and worked hard to reach a decision. However, differences won out and countries were not able to focus on these areas of consensus to reach a substantive decision when the agenda item closed on Friday, postponing discussions until the next negotiations in May 2017. So, how did this happen, and where do we go from here?

The promise for action

As parties began to discuss agriculture, they unearthed many areas of common ground. There was a strong sense of urgency and desire for action shared by many countries. Countries agreed on the need to explore policy options to spur action. Countries also acknowledged the need to address climate change through good agricultural practices and to share knowledge and lessons learned. As we wrote in our last blog and analysis, countries are already implementing many common practices, which they shared in their submissions to SBSTA 44. These practices include efficiently managing resources like water, nutrients, and soil, which can have multiple benefits for adaptation, mitigation and productivity.

Full negotiating texts were put forward, giving parties a starting ground. This was further than negotiators had gotten since discussions on agriculture started in Durban in 2011. They finally had the ability to address possible points of contention, then to adjust, and finally compromise. The delegates were obviously hard at work in the days leading up to their submission deadline. They met late into the night negotiating a text that could be somewhat acceptable to all parties. After three long days, however, negotiators could not get past fundamental differences. This led to a half-worked upon text that countries decided they could not use as a starting point for negotiations at the next SBSTA in May, losing much of the progress they made this week.

What went wrong?

Even as progress was made in certain areas – with valuable contributions from many parties – other components were locked in complete standstill. There were fundamental disagreements that stalled the negotiations, such as:

  • Whether to only focus on adaptation and food security—which is of utmost importance to all, but especially vulnerable, developing countries—or to also address mitigation in agriculture
  • and whether there should be a call for developed countries to provide finance and other support for developing countries.

While the COP presidency strongly encouraged the Parties to reach an agreement and put pressure by offering clear deadlines, parties were unable to negotiate efficiently. It is clear that both significantly more time and efficiency will be required to achieve real progress on agriculture.

The silver lining

The issue of agriculture is complex and the fact that parties are offering texts as starting points for negotiations shows that future progress on agriculture may be closer than it looks:

  • There is even stronger urgency and desire for action. Negative impacts of climate change are being felt now for agriculture. Agricultural emissions are significantly contributing to the warming of our planet. Inaction will no longer be an option. This urgency will be made clear on Wednesday, November 16 at the Agriculture and Food Security Action Day during the second week of COP22.
  • Though it was difficult to reach agreement at this COP, countries are starting to acknowledge that many best agricultural practices have benefits for both adaptation and mitigation.
  • Countries are already implementing many good agricultural practices, which they have shared with each other at the UNFCCC and in other international fora. These practices can provide areas of common ground for the next negotiations.
  • Progress, even incremental and painstaking, is still progress. Text was proposed and discussed; valuable contributions and ideas were shared. Parties can take elements of this text, especially points of consensus, to the subsidiary meeting in May.

Of course, this is all dependent on the commitment and willingness to engage on agriculture – from all stakeholders. Countries must be willing to focus on common goals between all countries, and also to compromise where needed. EDF and our partners stand ready to provide support and share our experiences in agriculture in countries around the world to reach a decision on agriculture.

Also posted in Marrakesh / Leave a comment

Why we could see progress on agriculture at the Marrakesh climate talks

By Jade Lu, Environmental Science and Biology major at Duke University, and Dana Miller, EDF Policy Analyst

Photo: Rakesh Tiwari (SACRED)

The interactions between the agricultural sector and climate change have undeniable implications for both global food security and our environment. Despite this global significance, and perhaps due to the complexity of the subject, there has been little progress to date on agriculture in the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. However, this could be about to change.

The impetus of Paris Climate Agreement and leadership by the Moroccan presidency could unlock the opportunity to advance agricultural issues at the climate talks, known as COP22, taking place this week in Marrakesh. Furthermore, country actions and targets as inscribed in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) both show commitment to the agricultural sector and help highlight key common practices that could form a basis for international collaboration.

While much of COP22 will be focused on laying groundwork for the Paris Agreement, agriculture could be an area of significant progress in Marrakesh, potentially resulting in a COP decision or work program on agriculture.

There is a strong need to address agriculture in COP22

Agriculture at once contributes significantly to climate change and faces some of the greatest risks posed by climate change. Agriculture is estimated to contribute one-third of all emissions. Conversely, climate change is projected to have negative impacts on agriculture, especially in developing countries. With 800 million people currently undernourished worldwide, the majority of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, and a projected population increase of more than 2 billion people by 2050, it is no wonder that “Zero Hunger” is identified as the 2nd Sustainable Development Goal by the UN and that adequate nourishment is interwoven with almost every goal listed.  However, agriculture has yet to be codified within the UNFCCC framework.

There is an opportunity to address agriculture in COP22

The Paris Agreement, monumental in more ways than one, identifies food security as a priority in the climate agenda. This recognition is emblematic of the necessity to address the foundation for food security – the agricultural sector – in the international climate negotiations.

It is clear from previous negotiations that countries have different priorities and perspectives in considering mitigation versus adaptation.  However, it is becoming increasingly clear that these two goals are not mutually exclusive in practice.

A new EDF analysis of countries’ submissions to the 44th SBSTA (Subsidiary Body on Science and Technological Advice) finds that countries are employing similar agricultural practices in different parts of the world. Several submissions also noted that these practices can have multiple benefits for adaptation, productivity and mitigation.

For example, soil management can increase soil fertility (and therefore productivity) as well as carbon storage in soils. Improvements in livestock such as diet management could both increase productivity and reduce methane emissions. The efficient management and storage of water could also increase resiliency to drought and reduce reliance on irrigation. These are just a few examples of commonly identified agricultural practices that meet both goals of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of emissions.

In addition to common practices, it is also clear that the vast majority of countries, driven by national interest, are committed to taking actions on agriculture in the context of climate. Within countries’ INDCs (intended nationally determined contributions), 80% include agriculture in their mitigation targets and 64% include agriculture in adaptation strategies.

Parallel to the negotiations, the Global Climate Action Agenda will highlight agriculture and food security on November 16th, demonstrating leadership by the Moroccan presidency to advance issues on agriculture at COP22.

The potential way forward

With clear necessity and urgency, a way must be paved for work on agriculture issues within the UNFCCC.  The Paris Agreement, INDCs, and common practices from SBSTA submissions that countries are already implementing could provide a foundation for countries to work together on agriculture. The best outcome of Marrakesh would be a COP decision on agriculture.

International cooperative action on agriculture is in the best interest of all countries due to critical importance of food security, adaptation, and climate stabilization. In addition, international collaboration could facilitate accounting for emissions towards INDCs and accelerate deployment of finance for agriculture.

We hope that negotiators will work constructively together on agriculture inside and outside of the negotiations, especially on areas of common ground such as the practices mentioned above. EDF and our partners will be closely following the agriculture negotiations at COP 22 and meeting with negotiators to discuss how to move forward on agriculture issues in the UNFCCC.

Also posted in Marrakesh, UN negotiations / Tagged | Leave a comment

How sustainable rice farming in Vietnam is increasing revenue while reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Co-authored by Joe Rudek, Lead Senior Scientist and Trần Thu Hà, VLCRP Director

October 2013 028 (003)v2

Example of Vietnam Low Carbon Rice Project (VLCRP) sampling site. Greenhouse gas was sampled using a static chamber placed in the rice paddy. Note water depth sampling tube in foreground, left of center, and square quadrat marker, just above center, where rice plant characteristics were measured over the course of the crop season. Image Source: Environmental Defense Fund, Joe Rudek

Rice production in Vietnam has increased significantly over the last few decades such that enough rice is produced there not only to supply Vietnam’s needs but also to support a major export industry.

About half the rice in Vietnam is grown in the Mekong Delta, at the southern end of the country; The water-rich Mekong Delta with its tropical climate is well suited to rice production in flooded paddies. However, flooded rice paddies also result in substantial emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Rice grown in the Mekong Delta alone is responsible for about 8 to 9% of the Vietnam’s total GHG emissions, according to the Vietnam 2014 Biennial Report to the UNFCCC and this is a conservative estimate.

For the past several years, EDF has been working with agricultural experts from Can Tho University, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Extension System officials, and farmers in two provinces (Ag Giang and Kien Giang) to pilot a sustainable low carbon rice farming system known as 1 Must, 6 Reductions (1M6R) which is a modification and advancement of a Vietnamese government recommendation. The 1 Must factor in this system is the use of certified rice seed. The 6 Reduction factors are water use, fertilizer, pesticides, seed density, harvest loss and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Vietnam Low Carbon Rice Project (VLCRP) partners developed the specifics for the 1M6R package of practices and piloted them over a two-year period in the two provinces. The pilots showed that 1M6R reduced input costs, increased yield, increased plant vitality (important to survival during late season storms) and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Net revenue was increased by as much as 60% as a result. Not surprisingly, farmers are readily adopting the new set of practices.

The sustainable farming system reduced input costs, increased yield, increased plant vitality, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

An important part of VLCRP was interaction with farmers, organization of farmer groups and efforts to improve opportunities for women. Adult learning techniques were employed and agricultural experts in the partnership met with farmers, organized into groups, throughout the crop seasons to train them in the 1M6R techniques and in record keeping via daily diaries.  Farmer leaders were trained so they could teach their peers. This approach has allowed the proliferation of the 1M6R techniques beyond the project boundaries.

One of the most challenging scientific aspects of VLCRP was the measurement of GHG emissions. Gas samples were drawn from static chambers placed in the rice paddies and transported to a lab at Can Tho University for analysis. Most important to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is the use of alternative wetting and drying (AWD) of the soils and reductions in nitrogen fertilizer. The interruption of flooding to allow the soil to dry and become re-oxygenated is key to the reduction of methane emissions. However, this practice can increase nitrous oxide emissions, an even more potent greenhouse gas than methane. The reduction in nitrogen fertilizer (among other factors) is key to minimizing nitrous oxide emissions.

The completion of the 1M6R pilot research which was funded by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (formerly known as Australian AID), has been documented in a project summary and a set of project proceedings, which are being prepared for submission to peer reviewed journals. The findings offer Vietnamese farmers a means to increase revenue while greatly reducing the environmental footprint and GHG emissions of their rice production.

Also posted in Vietnam / Leave a comment