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Regenerative—not ‘Climate-Smart’—Agriculture Needed to Feed the World and Cool the Planet

Regeneration International’s Ronnie Cummins Addresses ‘Climate-Smart’ Panel at COP22 Climate Summit


November 9, 2016

MARRAKECH—“World governments spend $486 billion a year to subsidize an industrial food and farming model that the United Nations estimates, contributes 43-57 percent of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA). “It’s time to stop subsidizing agricultural practices that contribute to global warming, and start subsidizing food, farming and land-use practices that restore the soil’s capacity to draw down and re-sequester excess carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil.”

Speaking to a panel hosted by the Social Innovation and Global Ethics Forum in conjunction with the COP22 Climate Summit, Cummins told participants that “Climate-Smart Agriculture” (CSA), is a clever term used to describe a limited approach to adapting to climate change and to addressing global food insecurity through agricultural practices that fail to meet the standard of regeneration.

“Scientists tell us that even if we achieve zero emissions tomorrow, the planet would continue to heat up for another thousand years,” Cummins said. “Our best hope to avert a climate disaster, restore public health and revitalize rural economies must include a plan that not only achieves zero emissions, but also draws down the billions of tons of excess carbon already in the atmosphere. That plan exists. It’s called regenerative agriculture, or agroecology.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank coined the term “Climate Smart Agriculture” at the 2010 Hague Conference on Food Security, Agriculture and Climate Change. The FAO floated the concept as a “triple win” for a type of agriculture that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, help crops adapt to changing climate conditions, and increase yields.

Last year, more than 350 national and international civil society groups, including OCA and Regeneration International, a project of OCA, signed a letter urging decision-makers to reject what the groups called the “growing influence and agenda of so-called ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ (CSA) and the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA).” The groups criticized the lack of criteria for deciding what can or cannot be called “Climate Smart,” and pointed to the potential for agribusiness corporations that promote synthetic fertilizers, industrial meat production and large-scale industrial agriculture—big contributors to global warming—to co-opt the term. 

In the U.S., fossil-fuel-intensive agribusiness corporations like Monsanto, who are members of the North American chapter of GASCA, claim to be practitioners of CSA.

Regeneration International has organized and/or is participating in numerous events at the COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakech, with a focus on regenerative agriculture and land-use as a critical strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw down excess carbon from the atmosphere.

Regeneration International, a project of the Organic Consumers Association, is building a global network of farmers, scientists, businesses, activists, educators, journalists, governments and consumers who will promote and put into practice regenerative agriculture and land-use practices that: provide abundant, nutritious food; revive local economies; rebuild soil fertility and biodiversity; and restore climate stability by returning carbon to the soil, through the natural process of photosynthesis.