IFOAM EU at COP21 - Agriculture on the table in several negotiation tracks

Agriculture is not as such on the official menu of the negotiations at COP21, but given that it represents a significant part of human emissions (estimations range between 10% to one third of all emissions depending on whether deforestation and indirect impacts are also taken into account), it has already been much discussed on the fringe and at numerous side events.

First it is part of the LPAA (Lima to Paris Action Plan) or “agenda of the solutions” (dubbed “agenda of the false solutions” by some NGOs concerned by the presence of big polluters in several initiatives). In particular, the “4/1000” initative launched by the French government on 1st December has attracted much attention. This research initiative is intended to increase the level of organic matter in the soil (at a rate of 4 parts per thousand per year) and to encourage carbon sequestration through agricultural practices that are suited to local conditions. It has the huge merit to draw attention to the importance of soils, which have been neglected for too long in all political processes, and as such it is supported by IFOAM - Organics International. But Coordination Sud, the French platform of international solidarity NGOs, have warned that they will remain vigilant about the initiative, whose concrete direction remains largely undefined for now. In particular, more carbon storage in the soil should not be understood as a license to emit as much or more in other sectors of human activity, and it should not divert attention from the need to reduce agriculture emissions in the first place, which are mostly due to nitrous oxide (production and use of fertilisers) and methane emissions (livestock).IFOAM - Organics International will contribute to steer this important initiative towards agroecology, keeping in mind that some key principles have to be considered when talking about soil carbon sequestration.

Several negotiation tracks are nonetheless related to agriculture, in particular those on land use, food security, and on the “Long Term Goal”. Whether the Paris agreement will mention a long term goal (LGT), and what it will look like, is a key issue of these negotiations. The two main options on the table are “decarbonisation” and “net-zero emissions” (or “climate neutrality, which amounts to the same). While the former term clearly refers to the need to drastically reduce emissions in the energy sector, and is supported by most NGOs, the latter precisely opens to way to different forms of carbon sequestration, which either rely on unproven technologies (such as CCS, carbon capture and storage, or even worse, such as geoengineering), carry significant risks of land grabbing (for example for massive reliance over biofuels and other BECCS - Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), and would in any case divert attention from the need to reduce emissions in the first place. The so-called “spin-off group on article 2” is expected to streamline the text and reduce the number of options by Thursday evening. It is also in this context that IFOAM insists on the need to ensure food security, along other principles, to be mentioned in the text, so as to provide guarantees against the risk of some mitigation projects negatively impacting smallholders farmers, in particular through land grabbing.


This publication is co-financed by the European Union, under the Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME). The sole responsibility for this communication lies with the IFOAM EU Group. The EASME is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information providers.



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