The governments of 42 nations have pledged $8 billion to help farmers reduce emissions and adapt to climate change, doubling their original financial investment from last year. That’s just one of the promises to come out of COP27, or the annual Conference of the Parties summit of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This year’s climate talks, which took place in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, and hosted representatives from 200 countries, included plans and initiatives with a focus on the agricultural industry. The ag-based plans aim to reduce the sector’s impact on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as assist farmers with the challenges of growing and raising food in the face of changing climates.
The $8-billion initiative, called Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, originally launched a year ago with a mission of bolstering agricultural technology—including artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and robotics—to address the increasingly pressing impacts of climate change. In the face of increased product losses, extreme weather events and less-than-fruitful harvests, along with sky-high input costs, the initiative invested even more money this year to address the issues as quickly as possible. A chunk of the funds—$1 billion—will be allocated to small-holder farmers in developing regions and advancing their access to technology. But some advocacy groups, including the International Coalition on Climate and Agriculture (ICCA), say the pledge is merely a distraction. “Agritech and the industrial agribusiness model it furthers are not a solution to the climate crisis, but rather a significant part of the problem,” said Andrew Kimbrell, ICCA co-founder, in a news release.
Another commitment to come out of the conference looks at deforestation as a result of the food industry. A group of 14 major agricultural commodity companies—aiming to end deforestation as a result of production of products such as palm oil, beef, cacao and soy by 2025— announced a plan on how to reduce the amount of trees cleared over the next few years. As trees act as a carbon-sequestering system, clearing growth from large swaths of land to repurpose for uses such as grazing cattle can result in high emissions of greenhouse gasses, with no carbon sink nearby.
The companies, including big names in the industry such as Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and JBS, say they will start the process of eliminating deforestation for certain commodities and report their progress transparently along the way. However, critics of the plan, including environmental groups, argue that the language of the proposal allows for too many loopholes, resulting in a not-strict-enough policy that won’t address the problems quickly. One worry is the phase-out over years is too slow, allowing for a time period of production and profit to rise before the deadline.
In another effort to lower the greenhouse gas emissions involved with food production—the industry accounts for around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions—the U.N food agency announced at the conference that it will launch a plan within the next year to make the world’s food system more sustainable. The forthcoming plan is said to address just how farming and the food industry can fall in line to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to Reuters, the group of more than 40 investors collectively manages roughly $18 trillion.