Blessed light returns,
the sunset’s glow sliding north
painting Christmas Eve.
Blessed light returns,
the sunset’s glow sliding north
painting Christmas Eve.
As international negotiators huddled in the last hours to hammer out an acceptable agreement, agriculture garnered little attention, except as a source of methane emissions. The need to produce 50 percent more food worldwide in the coming decades was hardly mentioned at all. Virtually no notice was given to wildlife and wildlife habitat enhanced by agricultural production. These are glaring omissions.
Fossil fuels, especially coal, were the crux of the negotiations.
Oil, gas and coal provides about 80 percent of all the energy used by human civilization. In China, it’s 88 percent (US Energy Information Administration). In the U.S., about 80 percent. The other big influencer is India, third in emissions and receiving 70 percent of its energy from coal alone.
India and China’s negotiators intervened in the last hours to water down language about reduction of fossil fuel use and subsidies to “phase down” from “phase out.”
Here’s a link to see the makeup of the delegations.
An emphasis was placed on deforestation, but other than an exhortation to plant trees, attention was not given to the role sound forest management has in sequestering carbon and managing water.
To the credit of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) they stated, “At COP26, governments recognized that soil and nutrient management practices and the optimal use of nutrients lie at the core of climate-resilient, sustainable food production systems and can contribute to global food security. It was also recognized that while livestock management systems are vulnerable to climate change, improving sustainable production and animal health can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing sinks on pasture and grazing lands. improving sustainable production and animal health can contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing sinks on pasture and grazing lands.”
In the end, we believe our Solutions from the Land team of seven was highly effective. We communicated with folks high (John Kerry) and low (the lone delegate from Tajikistan) about the importance of agriculture and forestry, and its role as a solution to climate change.
If the goal of no more warming than 1.5 degrees centigrade has a hope of being met (we’re currently at 1.1), it will take all sectors. The solutions are not simplistic,
It is challenging to summarize the experience and outcomes of attending COP26 as delegates representing Solutions from the Land (SfL). SfL focuses on land-based solutions to global challenges.
Our team carried the message that agriculture, livestock production, and forest health offer solutions to mitigate methane emissions. Farmers Ray Gaesser, Lois Wright Morton, Fred Yoder and AG Kawamura, ranchers Pat and Sharon O’Toole, and SfL President Ernie Shea attended the COP26 over two weeks’ time.
We were told that past COPs agendas had hardly let agriculture, let alone animal agriculture, get their foot in the door. Deforestation was the only lens through which forestry was viewed. Pat said his fellow Board members who attended past COP meetings told him, “You better get somebody from livestock to go because you’re really being demonized.”
It didn’t take very long to realize that demonization of agriculture and forestry is a potential issue that we all need to be paying attention to.
Pat observed that the COP process has been really naive in its view of production agriculture and its ability to create solutions. “Chilling” is the word that Pat used to describe this view. “The conversations at COP26 did not indicate an understanding of the need for success in balancing production and conservation in the context of overall strategy,” O’Toole observed.
It was obvious that that meat production, rice production, and farmers in general were characterized in a negative way. The people who have gone to these COP meetings over the last years from all over the world say it’s only now that agricultural producers are recognized. Only now are agriculturalists having an ability to participate. Our team strongly conveyed the message that we from ag need to have a seat at the table.
Our path was made easier when United States Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack showed strong support for ag when he, along with Fred Yoder presented at the U.S. Pavilion. Vilsack was very proactive in his support of agricultural production. This helped set the stage for the positive message carried by our team to focus on solutions, not agendas.
Here certainly was a feeling that there’s a lot of agendas about food production. Consumers have a very high level of concern without a very high understanding of production. Pat O’Toole said, “Luckily our family comes from a community of people who have been working on resilience in natural resources for over 30 years. We have example after example. On our landscape, a wetland that was created went from less than 40 species of birds to around 130.
“A trout passage program that made the entire watershed passable for trout from the main river to the heads of every tributary demonstrates agricultural resilience in terms of more efficient irrigation. This shows the vision of how we work together and use both our own initiative and programs from the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to come up with solutions.”
Solutions include working with organizations which share SfL’s values. Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) promotes “Healthy Habitat, Wildlife, and Communities.”
“The IWJV’s conservation delivery program brings people together to address complex challenges with broad-scale benefits for fish and wildlife, ranching and economic livelihood, and maintenance of the western way of life.” (IWJV.org)
Pat is the long-time President of the Family Farm Alliance, which advocates for irrigators. Their mission is to “Protect Water for Western Agriculture.”
“The Alliance is a powerful advocate before the government for family farmers, ranchers, irrigation districts, and allied industries in 17 Western states to ensure the availability of reliable, affordable irrigation water needed to produce the world’s food, fiber, and fuel.” (familyfarmalliance.org).
Partnerships in agriculture and forestry management hold a key to enhancing our landscape and atmosphere.
The ewes and lambs graze on the National Forests in the summer months. They move through a rotation so that they are not in any area for long. Part of the journey for Pepe’s sheep includes several weeks in high mountain pastures near the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area. He stays in a tent and we pack in his groceries and dog food. When he drops into the north fork of the Elk River, we bring his camp to him. This involves a drive down a death-defying curvy road to a wonderful mountain meadow. Bubba came along, both to learn the way and to provide the muscle.
Third grade teacher Cindy Cobb is famous for her field trips. The most famous field trip is to see the mating dance of the Greater Sage Grouse, which is amazing. The kids have to show up to the school at 5 a.m. or so to board the bus for the dancing grounds on our lambing grounds. Last year when my grandsons McCoy and Tiarnan were in third grade, they missed the cool field trips because the coronavirus had closed the school, This year, the fourth graders joined the third graders on the trek to see the lek where the male grouse dance and hoot in their attempt to attract the hens. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Biologist Phil Damm accompanied the students on the bus and explained what they were seeing. These kids know the ways of the birds and the bees!