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Carbon and Agriculture: The Big Picture

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Carbon and Agriculture: The Big Picture

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There is a renewed interest in the role of agriculture at the climate change negotiations, as evidenced by a number of interesting side-events during COP 16 in Cancun. The reason is simple: Agriculture and related activities account for a third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, most of which can be mitigated, an opportunity that policy makers simply cannot afford to miss. What’s more, some of the techniques that sequester carbon have the added advantage of building the water-retention capacity and nutrient content of soils, hence contributing to a triple-win situation where mitigation, adaptation and yield increases are all addressed.
In response to this, SIANI and Sida arranged a one-day workshop on the theme From Source to Sink: How to make Agriculture part of the Solution to Climate Change while contributing to Poverty Alleviation? The main purpose of the workshop was to link the multiple potentials of agriculture to other development goals such as over-all poverty alleviation and food security, with particular reference to the needs of smallholder farmers who make up 70% of the world’s poorest people.

There is a renewed interest in the role of agriculture at the climate change negotiations, as evidenced by a number of interesting side-events during COP 16 in Cancun. The reason is simple: Agriculture and related activities account for a third of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, most of which can be mitigated, an opportunity that policy makers simply cannot afford to miss. What’s more, some of the techniques that sequester carbon have the added advantage of building the water-retention capacity and nutrient content of soils, hence contributing to a triple-win situation where mitigation, adaptation and yield increases are all addressed.
In response to this, SIANI and Sida arranged a one-day workshop on the theme From Source to Sink: How to make Agriculture part of the Solution to Climate Change while contributing to Poverty Alleviation? The main purpose of the workshop was to link the multiple potentials of agriculture to other development goals such as over-all poverty alleviation and food security, with particular reference to the needs of smallholder farmers who make up 70% of the world’s poorest people.

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Carbon and Agriculture: The Big Picture

  1. 1. Carbon and Agriculture: The Big Picture Shefali Sharma Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy 6 December 2010, Cancun
  2. 2. Agriculture: The Complex Story • Agriculture Sector is much more than a “source” or “sink” of greenhouse gas emissions • It is multifunctional and touches on many aspects of our lives (food, fuel, fiber, culture, biodiversity, trade) • Provides livelihoods for over 70% of the population in the Global South
  3. 3. Problematique: Growing food demand and population by 2050 requires massive increases in food production Proposed Solution: Intensification of Agriculture using which methods? Which Technologies? Problematique: Bulk of mitigation potential for agriculture in Global South and in soil carbon Proposed Solution: Soil carbon sequestration, both as means of financing ag investment and reducing greenhouse gases Ignores: Current causes of food insecurity; drivers of deforestation. Fails to address extreme market concentration and the “hourglass” shape of the agriculture sector that drives production and consumptions choices; land tenure and rights; financial markets and price volatility
  4. 4. We currently produce enough food to the feed the world; but over a billion people are food insecure today
  5. 5. Hourglass Shape of the Sector Consumers Vertical and horizontal Mkt Concentration of Agribusiness in ag inputs, grain trading, milling and processing, retail Ability to set buyer and seller price by oligopoly structure Producers
  6. 6. 1.5 billion peasants on 380 million farms 800 million people growing urban gardens 410 million gathering the hidden harvest of forests and savannas 190 million pastoralists 100 million peasant fishers In addition 370 million of these are also indigenous people Source: IAASTD Who Produces Our Food? Small scale farmers, Fisher-folks and Pastoralists (Women)
  7. 7. A viable Food Future 2010
  8. 8. Yet disenfranchised by • Ever decreasing agriculture investment in agriculture (public); failure of private sector to deliver • Agriculture prices below the cost of prod; price volatility • Land tenure issues—insecurity of land; control over natural resources • Increased risk—export markets; no safety nets • No infrastructure: roads; storage • Lack of affordable/ecological inputs that are adaptive as well as contribute to mitigation • Incentives for proprietary, costly technologies and practices that do not necessarily result in increased yields but increase risk
  9. 9. Solutions should focus on adaptation • Put food producers at the center • Focus on “Not just Carbon” but practices that are able to deliver on mitigation benefits (organic; agroecological approaches) • Address biodiversity, essential for resilience • Put animals back on the farm and out of factories • Internalize costs of production and address systemic issues
  10. 10. Soil Organic Matter Living Carbon • Holds water • Cements soil particles and reduces soil erosion • Increases nutrient storage & availability • Humus can last 2000 years in the soil (slide reproduced from IFOAM) Electron micrograph of soil humus
  11. 11. K The IAASTD Reports (www.agassessment.org) Multi-stakeholder: 400 authors, 52 countries Multi-disciplinary Multi-locational: Global / sub-Global Reports
  12. 12. Mitigation: Where do we begin?
  13. 13. “Please eat less meat. Meat is a very carbon intensive commodity.” Rajendra Pachauri, Chair IPPC, Nobel Laureate 2007 (Reproduced from Niggli, U. Fibl www.Fibl.org)
  14. 14. Soil Carbon and Markets • Will carbon mkts provide reliable funding for small holders? • Who will control the price for carbon? • What role of speculators? • Leakage and permanence; MRV of soil carbon • Transaction costs?
  15. 15. Climate change policy Governments Caps Allocations Sellers: -co’s/ compliers - proj developers -speculators Exchanges/ Brokers Buyers: - compliance - speculative GHG offset projects GHG reductions Verifiers Certifiers Crediting agency Carbon funds & other financiers Project developers Carbon trading Other strategies to reduce GHGs establish set certify verify create finance develop/ finance apply to issue trade trade return return distribute Host government apply to approve Allowances Offset credits trade
  16. 16. The “private” carbon market without government subsidies, supply and demand
  17. 17. Price and volume volatility in the EU’s ETS trades: 2006-2008 (J. Mason)
  18. 18. OTC metric tons of carbon vs metric tons in regulated exchanges
  19. 19. Unregulated and non-transparent financial trade window called “over the counter trade” (OTC) has helped to severely destabilize commodity markets. Financial speculators can make unlimited bets through this window. The US market in Over the Counter trading is worth $300 trillion (Bank of Int Settlements, 2008). Unfair price info. advantage to traders since OTC not reported. In 2008, 44% of carbon traded on the European Emissions Trading Scheme was through over the counter trade. And EU looking to include terrestrial carbon into ETS.
  20. 20. Role of Speculation in food and ag • Between 2007 and the spring of 2008, the food price index shot up by 85%, then in a few months, agriculture commodity prices fell by 60%. • Massive price spike and drop was devastating for developing countries, particularly net-food importers; increased price of inputs because linked to oil • Drove another 150 million people into hunger. According to UNCTAD, the extent of price volatility during the food crisis cannot be attributed to supply and demand alone • Wide consensus that speculation on commodity markets by financial traders had a significant role to play in creating the crisis.
  21. 21. Concluding Remarks • Proposals seeking to include all land-based activities into calculations for emissions and for sinks • Expansion of CDM into soil carbon Yet numerous questions remain about rights; science; equity, risks and benefits to small farmers Transaction costs are real: FAO estimates close to 17 billion euros between 2010-2030 to run mitigation projects. IPCC and FAO estimates for adaptation range in the billions (60 billion USD).
  22. 22. •These schemes cannot work without financial support from governments, intergovernmental organizations like the World Bank (which is public money). •No data on the breakdown of payments between carbon developers/managers and actual small holders. Our responsibility to prioritize adaptation with mitigation benefits. Solutions exist. Business As Usual Is No Longer An Option.
  23. 23. Thank You! ssharma@iatp.org

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