Can agriculture go from net emitter to net sink?

COP 26 delivered new commitments around emissions, deforestation, coal, methane, international co-operation and finance. But despite our global food and agricultural systems being intrinsically linked to climate change, biodiversity and human health, they were not high on the agenda. Agriculture has a key part to play in hitting international emissions targets and protecting biodiversity, as well as of course securing our long-term food supply. Meaningful targets, a realistic trajectory of change and investment in environmentally friendly and sustainable food production are vital – but were notably missing from COP26.

At present global agriculture is a significant emitter of green house gases, accounting for around 10% of all emissions*. This is contributing to climate change at the global level, but also to environmental degradation on national and local levels, with significant loss of forests and biodiversity as well as the degradation of soil health happening across commercial agricultural land.

“This is now a highly complex problem, but it stems from the simple premise that over the course of the last century the financial system behind the agricultural industry has rewarded farmers for specialising in a small number of crops or livestock, and producing high yields of those products. This has removed natural diversity from agricultural land along with all the benefits that diversity brings. In turn this has lead to increased reliance on inputs such as fertilisers and pesticides, reduced soil health, increased carbon emissions and a lack of space for nature in and around farms.”

Harry Farnsworth, regenagri’s Projects Lead

The regenagri team have recently been in discussions with the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) about how regenerative agriculture could become a key route away from these problems, towards a nature positive, carbon negative farming future.

The UNEP and other associated UN agencies share remit to support national governments in achieving their sustainability goals, with COP’s serving to provide periodic refocusing on the collective international imperatives which drive change. Our conversations with UNEP have focused on how regenerative agriculture can help with this mission, and on the systemic changes needed in legislation and financial systems to help facilitate the transition to regeneration within food and fibre production.

As James Lomax from the UNEP stated in his recent appearance on the regenagri podcast, maintaining hope is vital to achieving success. Nature positive, carbon negative agriculture can be achieved with regenerative methods, and this can be done in a financially viable way for the farmer if they given the right support. This is inspiring and can provide the case study needed for banks and governments to re-think how they finance and incentivise the agricultural sector in order for it to deliver for consumers, the environment and those who make their livings from farming. 

To find out more about our conversations with UNEP, listen to the November 2021 episode of the regenagri podcast

Or to speak to us about how to incorporate regenerative approaches on your farm, or into your supply chain, please get in touch