What we say to the Paris Climate Agreement.

The Paris agreement reached Saturday 12 December 2015 establishes a worldwide commitment to limiting global temperature increase well below 2°C and the pursuit of efforts to keep it under 1.5°C. The agreement is unique insofar as it unites 195 countries in defining a common long-term vision on how to deal with climate change. However, it falls short of delivering on concrete commitments. 

The final agreement has many components essential for success:

  • It compiles the pledges by 195 countries to cut global warming emissions within the next 10 to 15 years.
  • It calls for a common set of monitoring, verification, and reporting procedures.
  • Wealthier countries, which are most responsible for climate change, are obliged to provide funds and technology to help poorer countries lower their emissions and adapt to the consequences of climate change.
  • Limiting global warming to 1.5°C degrees would mean significantly less climate extremes for farmers in the tropics already hit hard by extreme heat, droughts, floods and cyclones.

However, it is questionable whether the non-binding system the agreement establishes is adequate to achieve the vision in an equitable way:

  • The commitment to ‘pursue efforts’ to limit warming to 1.5°C is weak considering the already experienced climate realities.
  • There is no binding requirement on financial contributions from individual countries, only a new ‘collective’ financing goal of at least USD 100 billion per year has been set for developed countries.
  • Food security is not referenced in the operative text; the objective of the agreement refers to poverty eradication and sustainable development.
  • There is no reference or clear timeline for the phasing out of fossil fuels.
  • There is no guidance on land use in the agreement.

It is clear that without a contribution from agriculture, the 1.5°C goal cannot be achieved. It is therefore imperative to adopt techniques that both reduce emissions and capture carbon in the soil. Agro-ecological approaches including organic farming fulfill both criteria.

IFOAM – Organics International will make efforts to turn the agreement into a success story for smallholders and agro-ecological farmers by:

  • Promoting and contributing to the 4/1000 Initiative focusing on soil carbon sequestration so that is gains traction among countries and donors.
  • Supporting countries in including strong agricultural components in the next round of both their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) and their strategies to lower greenhouse gas emission by 2020 making sure that agro-ecology is an essential part of these.
  • Pushing for the Paris Committee on capacity building, which will look at critical gaps and areas for action, become a platform for agreeing to a common accounting methodology for agriculture, which is currently missing using the SBSTA 44 workshops in Bonn in May 2016 to highlight the benefits of agro-ecological farming including organic for climate change adaptation and mitigation,
  • Assisting with the IPCC’s special report on agriculture and food security ahead of their sixth Assessment Report.

For farmers living on the frontline of climate change, this deal offers hope for a brighter future, but not yet the security that we’ll get there quick enough. As most experts put it: Paris will be what we make out of it.

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