Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our times, and efforts to curb emissions are often geared towards the energy sector or halting deforestation. Yet the agriculture sector contributes between 24 – 33% (Gilbert, 2012; IPCC, 2014; FAO, 2014), and these trends are increasing, amounting to 5.4 Gt CO2e yr−1 in 2012 (Tubiello et al., 2015). In order to achieve COP21 targets of limiting global warming to 2 °C above pre‐industrial level in 2100, agricultural emissions must be reduced to ~1 GtCO2e yr−1 by 2030, necessitating innovative mitigation options for carbon sequestration within agricultural systems (Wollenberg et al., 2016). Traditional agro-ecological production systems exhibit high adaptation and mitigation potential, offering key pathways to tackle the global challenge of climate change (Altieri & Nicholls, 2017). In terms of climate action, there has been a polarization in the debate regarding allocation of responsibility between actors. Is it governments, the private sector or consumers that should take action to tackle climate change?
Stakeholders at all levels should instead be empowered to critically engage and tackle global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable food security, for governments to understand the importance of ecological agriculture in climate change measures, and to lobby for government support for sustainable food systems in order to mitigate climate change.
In 2008, before the climate summit in Copenhagen, Dr Vandana Shiva wrote the book Soil Not Oil. It was a time when the intimate connections between climate and agriculture, air and soil were not being recognized in any forum, neither in the negotiations on climate change nor in the climate movement. But at the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in 2015, agri-corporations were already attempting to hijack climate talks once again.
Even though nowadays the evidence is clear that ecological farming produces more and better food, using fewer resources, and rejuvenating the soil, biodiversity and water that it uses, corporations continue to fog our thinking about the future of food and farming with new propaganda and new spin –“sustainable intensification”, “smart agriculture”, “climate smart agriculture”. “Climate-Smart Agriculture” may sound promising, but it is a politically-motivated term. The approach does not involve any criteria to define what can or cannot be called “Climate Smart”. Without definitions, criteria, standards, safeguards or exclusions, “Climate Smart Agriculture” is a meaningless and dangerous concept that has no place as a climate strategy. And consider that 60% of the private sector membership of the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture is related to the fertilizer industry. In addition, transnational corporations that have questionable social and environmental impacts, such as Monsanto, Walmart and McDonalds have launched their own “climate-smart agriculture” programs.
The climate crises must be framed in a much more holistic way in terms of food systems that are ecologically sustainable and regenerative, like agroecology, which both builds soil health and sequesters carbon. The goal cannot be only sequestering carbon, but the overall health of ecosystems and people, the generation of livelihoods and healthy economies, the creation of equity and justice.
Over the last decade, Navdanya International has played a key role in the international Regenerative Agricuture movement in clearly defining the central role of food systems in the issues of climate change and climate justice. The debate on the climate change issue cannot avoid considering how the dominant technological and economic model, based on fossil fuels, does not take into account the finitude of the Earth’s resources and is blind to the living processes that create living soil, as well as to the fact that the fate of societies and civilizations is intimately connected to how we treat the soil and how we grow and distribute the food we eat.
Navdanya International’s work on climate change, including the Manifesto ‘Terra Viva’ Our Soils, Our Commons, Our Future – a new vision for planetary citizenship’ and the mobilization at COP21 in Paris with the Pact for the Earth in December 2015, has shown the impact of industrial agriculture, as major contributor to greenhouse gases emission, but also how the solution for building resilience for small farmers as well as adaptation and mitigation to climate change and social justice comes from local ecological agriculture and food systems, local circular economies, local seeds and care for the soil which has the ability of taking back carbon dioxide in the ground.
Navdanya International’s workshops on Climate Change also offer a detailed analysis on the false solutions promoted by the industry, such as Climate Smart Agriculture and Geoengineering, which are means of corporate power to perpetrate the same extractive model and find new ways to grab resources.
Navdanya’s publication “Seeds Of Hope, Seeds Of Resilience – How Biodiversity and Agroecology offer Solutions to Climate Change”, describes experiences on the ground with communities across India, which conserve Biodiversity and practice Agroecology based on Biodiversity intensification. Diversity of living systems are an expression of their capacity to evolve and adapt. Agro-biodiversity in natural ecosystems has been adapting naturally or autonomously to changing conditions. As the magnitude of climate change increases with time, the need for co-evolution for adaptation through agrobiodiversity conservation and evolutionary breeding becomes more acute. The report shows that not only can we address climate change and rejuvenate the planet, one seed at a time, but also that, in so doing we produce more and better food which could provide enough nourishment for two times the world population.