Vilsack says ag ‘elevated’ at COP27, others not sure
|In a call to reporters from Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt, where he is participating in the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Monday he believes that agriculture and the U.S. leadership on agriculture have been “elevated” at the meeting and the sideline events that occurred at an official Agriculture Day on Saturday.|
Vilsack noted that at the first COP meeting he attended in Denmark in 2009, it took a “significant amount of discussion” to determine that the word agriculture should even be included in the draft document at the end of the conference.
In 2017, Vilsack said, there was an agreement on a general agenda that included agriculture and over time the recognition of the role of agriculture in climate change has become “more comprehensive and serious.”
The Egyptian government’s decision to include an Agriculture Day in the activities was another signal of the importance of agriculture.
Vilsack said he believes the Ag Day will be continued next year when the COP28 meeting will be held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, which is a partner with the United States in its Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) initiative.
AIM’s purpose is to bring together public- and private-sector partners from around the world to collaborate on climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation.
Vilsack made his comments as the COP27 conference was still in progress. While he emphasized the role that agriculture can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the importance of increasing the world food supply including protein for a growing population, environmentalists have emphasized the role that agriculture plays in carbon emissions and expressed disappointment in the COP27 conference.
Danielle Nierenberg of the Food Tank, who chaired several discussions at COP27 in which foundations and environmentalists participated, said Monday, “Food and agriculture production — including public health costs, environmental damage, unjust and inequitable labor conditions, and much more — costs us nearly $30 trillion per year.”
“At least 93% of member states mention food in their NDCs [nationally determined contributions to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change under the Paris Agreement] yet only 3% of climate finance is going into food systems,” Nierenberg said.
Asked about China’s and India’s top leaders’ decisions to skip COP27, Vilsack said Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry had told him that China is approaching these conversations generally “with some degree of seriousness.”
But Vilsack added that with India “there is still work to be done.” He also noted that President Biden attended the conference and mentioned conservation and forestry in his speech.
In the call and in a news release, Vilsack talked about the announcements that he had made at COP27:
▪ USDA will direct an additional $300 million to the second pool of pilot projects in the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities by the end of 2022, bringing USDA’s total expected investment to $3.1 billion.
More than 65 additional projects will focus on enrolling small and underserved producers, as well as on methods to be developed at minority-serving institutions for monitoring, reporting and verifying the benefits of climate-smart agricultural practices.
▪ USDA will establish an International Climate Hub, modeled after USDA’s domestic Climate Hubs, which serve as a model for developing and delivering science-based, region-specific information and technologies to U.S. agricultural managers to enable climate-informed decision-making.
The International Climate Hub will provide information and resources tailored to specific regions and needs, including a focus on the countries and producers most vulnerable to the effects of global climate change. The hub will leverage results and innovations generated via USDA’s domestic and international programs and initiatives, including the Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities pilot projects.
▪ The United States will commit $25 million to the Global Fertilizer Challenge, which President Biden announced earlier this year with a goal of raising $100 million in support by COP27.
That amount includes $20 million for the Fertilize Right initiative, through which USDA will work with governments and local organizations worldwide to advance fertilizer efficiency and nutrient management, starting with Brazil, Colombia, Pakistan and Vietnam, and $5 million for the Efficient Fertilizer Consortium, to be established by the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research and implemented in partnership with AIM for Climate, to advance applied research on efficient fertilizer products and practices in collaboration with the private sector.
▪ The United States will host the AIM for Climate Summit in Washington May 8-10, 2023, and will call on venture capitalists to invest more in climate-related startups and early stage activities of these companies because “we are still as a sector lagging behind compared to other sectors in terms of investment.”
|▪ USDA will make two new contributions to AIM for Climate: $5 million for the Enteric Fermentation Research and Development Accelerator, an AIM for Climate innovation sprint led by the Global Methane Hub, to accelerate cost-effective solutions to reduce enteric methane emissions; and $5 million for the Efficient Fertilizer Consortium as a component of U.S. support for the Global Fertilizer Challenge.|
Vilsack also highlighted USDA’s domestic and international efforts to advance climate-smart dairy production, including:
▪ Awarding more than $400 million for nine dairy-focused projects under the first round of Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, which will help create additional revenue streams for U.S. dairy producers by developing markets for climate-smart dairy commodities and will help the U.S. dairy sector more effectively monitor, verify and report greenhouse gas reduction benefits.
|▪ Collaborating with the State Department, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the Global Dairy Platform and the International Food Policy Research Institute to help mobilize $1 billion from the Green Climate Fund to accelerate sustainable dairy sector transformation in East Africa, Asia and the Americas as part of Pathways to Dairy Net Zero.|
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