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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

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  1. Nature-based Solutions at the COP 23 UN Climate Meeting– Ellie’s blog post for the 2018 CA Adaptation Forum

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    December 13, 2017 by Ellie Cohen, Point Blue Conservation Science  See here for my full postand more on the 2018 CA Adaptation Forum August 28-29 in Sacramento.

    It was an inspiring couple of weeks representing Point Blue Conservation Science for its first time as an official UN observer organization at the 2017 global climate meeting in Bonn, Germany in November.  Delegates from every country in the world gathered for COP23, the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The country representatives worked on developing the “rulebook” for implementing the 2015 Paris climate agreement to keep increases in global temperature well below 2°C or 3.6°F since the pre-industrial era.

    But COP23 was about much more than negotiating rules.  It truly was an enormous global climate change conference with over 23,000 people attending from all levels of government, NGOs and businesses exchanging insights, progress and challenges.  I personally logged more than 4 miles a day just walking from one session or press conference to another across the huge venue along the Rhine River!

    COP23 saw more inclusion of city and state voices (roughly 15 cities in the world are bigger than half of the UN countries combined, according to one presenter) and a new “Carbon-Free City Handbook” was released.  There was also a greater focus on women as climate action leaders (currently women make up less than 6% of all the mayors in the world and less than 15% of all legislators).

    And, after more than four years of negotiations, the countries formally recognized that how we manage agricultural lands can be a significant part of the climate solution for carbon sequestration, water, biodiversity and other benefits.

    The latest science indicates we will need dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas pollution and removal of warming gases from the atmosphere to get back to a safe climate by 2100 (<1C of warming and ~350 PPM CO2 in the atmosphere).  Natural climate solutions, including reforestation and climate-smart land management will be key to achieving these “negative emissions” goals as well as resilience and adaptation.

    At a COP23 panel on this topic, Dr. Deborah Bossio of The Nature Conservancy, reported on a recent publication showing that natural climate solutions could make up more than 1/3 of the emissions reductions needed to stay below the 2°C warming limit by 2030 per the Paris accords.  She also reported on a new study she coauthored that better management of cropland soils could conservatively sequester up to 7 billion tons (Gt) of CO2e per year or about 18% of annual global emissions, while also providing food and water security.

    COP23 featured multiple presentations and discussions on nature-based solutions to the climate crisis.  Barron Joseph Orr of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, spoke about “optimizing your land” and reminded us that “you can’t have biodiversity above ground unless it’s in the soil.”  Another panel featured Batio Brassiere, Minister of the Environment for Green Economy and Climate Change from Burkino Faso.  He explained how “agroecology can help save the environment, improve living conditions, increase productivity and remove carbon from the atmosphere.”  And, Inger Anderson, Director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature summed it up when she said, “When you invest in nature, nature invests right back into our communities and resilience.”

    I was honored to present on nature-based solutions as part of a panel about California’s innovative climate policies organized by The Nature Conservancy and held at the US Climate Action Center.  Panel participants were Louis Blumberg/TNC, Jonathan Parfrey/Climate Resolve, Nicolas Muller/UNFCCC, myself, and Ricardo Lara/CA State Senator (see photo below, left to right).

    Other side events (there were many going on simultaneously) included one on a new certification for city planners to raise the qualifications and status of those who assess urban greenhouse gas emissions, develop climate action plans and guide their implementation.  Presenters from the World Bank, World Resources Institute and ICLEI Sustainable Cities talked about many of the same issues we seek to address in the natural climate solutions arena– from the need to implement an adaptive management approach for testing and improving efforts, to exploring approaches for scaling up and catalyzing more action locally, regionally and globally.

    As Governor Brown concluded his talk on America’s (non-federal!) Pledge, “economy is rooted in ecosystems”…. and “we are not where we need to be to prevent catastrophic warming.” He stated emphatically that “we have to create a different consciousness about what it is to be a human being in the 21st century.”  He implored us, “Don’t be complacent. We face unprecedented threats to everything we hold dear. Be on the edge of your seat. Push yourself to the furthest degree. Billions of people are depending on us.”

    Hilda Heine, the first woman President of the Marshall Islands, shared the meaning of the Fijian word “chumamich” – tenacity, determination, and resilience on a long sea voyage when tasked with ensuring the safety of the passengers to the end of the journey.

    Working together with “chumamich,” we must each redouble our efforts to secure a healthy future for us all.

    Note: See here for more on COP23 outcomes.

     


    Ellie Cohen, President and CEO of Point Blue Conservation Science since 1999, is a leader in catalyzing collaborative, nature-based solutions to climate change, habitat loss and other environmental challenges. She and Point Blue’s 160 scientists work with natural resource managers, ranchers, farmers, local governments and others to reduce the impacts of environmental change and develop climate-smart conservation approaches to benefit wildlife and people. Ellie is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Observer Organization representative for Point Blue. She is Immediate Past Chair and Steering Committee member of the CA Landscape Conservation Cooperative, an invited member of the SF Bay Area’s Resilient by Design Research Advisory Committee, and co-founder of the Bay Area Ecosystems Climate Change Consortium.  Ellie was honored with the Bay Nature 2012 Environmental Hero Award for her climate change leadership. Ellie received her undergraduate degree in Botany with honors at Duke University and an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government where she was honored with the first Robert F. Kennedy Public Service Award. She speaks regularly on the urgent need to include nature-based approaches in the climate change solutions toolbox.

     

  2. Can US beef production be ‘sustainable’? A model for ‘sustainable’ US beef production

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    Nov 29 2017 Background blog perspective on this publication here

    • We are not saying grass based beef is sustainable, or unsustainable, we are just asking “suppose it is sustainable, how much can the U.S. have?”
    • Can US beef be sustainable? Depends on your metric of “sustainability”. We offer one preliminary, tentative metric of “sustainability”, and show that with beef conforming to this metric, we can meet just shy of half of today’s demand.
    • Because we believe land use must rationally balance food production, wildlife conservation and ample supply of clean fresh water, among other societal objectives, we devise our main calculation so as to provide not a single answer to the above question, but instead a continuous beef availability function that spans the full range of pastureland utilization from no grazing to full occupation of the pastureland area U.S beef currently use, ≈275 million ha.
    • In the latter most extreme case, we can have just under half of current beef supply. Amazingly (and somewhat less certainly), cutting used pastureland to half the current area will diminish this amount only trivially.
    • Is this beef sustainable? Since agricultural sustainability is yet to be generally and cogently defined, the question is ill-defined and currently unanswerable. But we doubt that by the definition we will eventfully rally behind, using 2.7 million square km—about the size of Argentina or Kazakhstan—to produce 16 g protein person-1 d-1 (or 13% of the overall per capita daily protein intake of 120 g) while jeopardizing already imperiled wildlife or degrading western hydrology and fluvial geomorphology will prove sustainable. This doubt is what the quotes enclosing the title’s “sustainable” mean.

    Eshol, G et al. A model for ‘sustainable’ US beef production. Nature Ecology & Evolution (2017) doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0390-5

    ABSTRACT: Food production dominates land, water and fertilizer use and is a greenhouse gas source. In the United States, beef production is the main agricultural resource user overall, as well as per kcal or g of protein. Here, we offer a possible, non-unique, definition of ‘sustainable’ beef as that subsisting exclusively on grass and by-products, and quantify its expected US production as a function of pastureland use. Assuming today’s pastureland characteristics, all of the pastureland that US beef currently use can sustainably deliver ≈45% of current production. Rewilding this pastureland’s less productive half (≈135 million ha) can still deliver ≈43% of current beef production. In all considered scenarios, the ≈32 million ha of high-quality cropland that beef currently use are reallocated for plant-based food production. These plant items deliver 2- to 20-fold more calories and protein than the replaced beef and increase the delivery of protective nutrients, but deliver no B12. Increased deployment of rapid rotational grazing or grassland multi-purposing may increase beef production capacity.

  3. Riparian restoration’s leaf litter can reduce nitrate pollution from fertilizers

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    • Riparian restoration in agricultural landscapes can result in leaf litter that enhances microbial activity and reduction of polluting nitrates from fertilizers- and downstream impacts of the nitrates through eutrophication (major increases in algal growth that create dead zones without oxygen).
    • Leaf inputs associated with increased riparian cover had the potential to double the catchment level rate of denitrification, offering a promising way to mitigate nitrate pollution in agricultural streams
    • For the riparian plants to be effective in adding sufficient organic matter, the number of plants and species (e.g., leaf traits, quality) and ability of stream to retain organic matter would need to be addressed in riparian management plans.
    • Riparian restoration has the greatest potential to remove nitrogen in comparison with hyporheic restoration or floodplain reconnection (Lammers and Bledsoe 2017).
    • Riparian restoration is not a silver bullet and will only address some of the nitrogen problems, and a targeted approach to increasing denitrification needs to be combined with other land-based nutrient management practices, including reductions in fertilizer application (Newcomer Johnson et al. 2016).

    O’Brien J et al. Leaf litter additions enhance stream metabolism, denitrification, and restoration prospects for agricultural catchments. Ecosphere Full publication history DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.201

    Abstract: Globally intensive agriculture has both increased nitrogen pollution in adjacent waterways and decreased availability of terrestrially derived carbon frequently used by stream heterotrophs in nitrogen cycling. We tested the potential for carbon additions via leaf litter from riparian restoration plantings to act as a tool for enhancing denitrification in agricultural streams with relatively high concentrations of nitrate (1.3–8.1 mg/L) in Canterbury, New Zealand. Experimental additions of leaf packs (N = 200, mass = 350 g each) were carried out in 200-m reaches of three randomly selected treatment streams and compared to three control streams receiving no additional leaf carbon. Litter additions increased ecosystem respiration in treatment streams compared to control streams but did not affect gross primary production, indicating the carbon addition boosted heterotrophic activity, a useful gauge of the activities of microbes involved in denitrification. Bench-top assays with denitrifying enzymes using acetylene inhibition techniques also suggested that the coarse particulate organic matter added from leaf packs would have provided substrates suitable for high rates of denitrification. Quantifying denitrification directly in experimental reaches by open-channel methods based on membrane inlet mass spectrophotometry indicated that denitrification was around three times higher in treatment streams where litter was added compared to control streams. We further assessed the potential for riparian plantings to reduce large-scale downstream nitrogen losses through increasing in-stream denitrification by modeling the effects of increasing riparian vegetation cover on nitrogen fluxes. Here, we combined estimates of in-stream ecosystem processes derived from our experiment with a network model of catchment-scale nitrogen retention and removal based on empirical measurements of nitrogen flux in this typical agricultural catchment. Our model indicated leaf inputs associated with increased riparian cover had the potential to double the catchment level rate of denitrification, offering a promising way to mitigate nitrate pollution in agricultural streams. Altogether, our study indicates that overcoming carbon limitation and boosting heterotrophic processes will be important for reducing nitrogen pollution in agricultural streams and that combining empirical approaches for predictions suggests there are large potential benefits from riparian re-vegetation efforts at catchment scales.

  4. Healthy soils can play big role in avoiding climate catastrophe- NY Times Op-Ed

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    • Regenerative agriculture will be a key part of solving the climate crisis

    DEC. 2, 2017 Read NYTimes article here

    The last great hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change may lie in a substance so commonplace that we typically ignore it or else walk all over it: the soil beneath our feet.

    The earth possesses five major pools of carbon. Of those pools, the atmosphere is already overloaded with the stuff; the oceans are turning acidic as they become saturated with it; the forests are diminishing; and underground fossil fuel reserves are being emptied. That leaves soil as the most likely repository for immense quantities of carbon.

    Now scientists are documenting how sequestering carbon in soil can produce a double dividend: It reduces climate change by extracting carbon from the atmosphere, and it restores the health of degraded soil and increases agricultural yields. Many scientists and farmers believe the emerging understanding of soil’s role in climate stability and agricultural productivity will prompt a paradigm shift in agriculture, triggering the abandonment of conventional practices like tillage, crop residue removal, mono-cropping, excessive grazing and blanket use of chemical fertilizer and pesticide. Even cattle, usually considered climate change culprits because they belch at least 25 gallons of methane a day, are being studied as a potential part of the climate change solution because of their role in naturally fertilizing soil and cycling nutrients.

    The climate change crisis is so far advanced that even drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions won’t prevent a convulsive future by itself — the amount of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere ensures dire trouble ahead. The most plausible way out is to combine emission cuts with “negative-emission” or “drawdown” technologies, which pull greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere and into the other pools. Most of these proposed technologies are forms of geoengineering, dubious bets on huge climate manipulations with a high likelihood of disastrous unintended consequences.

    On the other hand, carbon sequestration in soil and vegetation is an effective way to pull carbon from the atmosphere that in some ways is the opposite of geoengineering. Instead of overcoming nature, it reinforces it, promoting the propagation of plant life to return carbon to the soil that was there in the first place — until destructive agricultural practices prompted its release into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. That process started with the advent of agriculture about 10,000 years ago and accelerated over the last century as industrial farming and ranching rapidly expanded.

    Among the advocates of so-called regenerative agriculture is the climate scientist and activist James Hansen, lead author of a paper published in July that calls for the adoption of “steps to improve soil fertility and increase its carbon content” to ward off “deleterious climate impacts.

    Rattan Lal, the director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State, estimates that soil has the potential to sequester carbon at a rate of between 0.9 and 2.6 gigatons per year. That’s a small part of the 10 gigatons a year of current carbon emissions, but it’s still significant. Somewhat reassuringly, some scientists believe the estimate is low.

    ….The techniques that regenerative farmers use vary with soil, climate and crop. They start from the understanding that healthy soil teems with more than a billion microorganisms per teaspoon and the behavior of those organisms facilitates hardy plant life. To fertilize their fields, regenerative farmers use nutrient-rich manure or compost, avoiding as much as possible chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can kill huge quantities of organic matter and reduce plants’ resilience. They don’t like to till the soil, since tillage increases carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Some farmers combine livestock, cover crops and row crops sequentially on the same field, or plant perennials, shrubs and even trees along with row crops. Leaving soil bare during off-seasons is taboo, since barren soil easily erodes, depleting more carbon from the soil; regenerative farmers instead plant cover crops to capture more carbon and nitrogen from the atmosphere….

    …California began an initiative in 2015 to incorporate soil health into the state’s farm and ranch operations. Some of the pioneering studies showing regenerative agriculture’s benefits have been carried out at the Marin Carbon Project, on a self-proclaimed carbon-farming ranch in the pastoral reaches of Marin County 30 miles northwest of San Francisco. A four-year study there showed that a one-time application of compost caused an increase in plant productivity that has continued ever since, and that the soil’s carbon content grew year after year, at a rate equivalent to the removal from the atmosphere of 1.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide per acre annually.

    Whendee Silver, an ecosystem ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley who is the project’s lead scientist, calculated along with a colleague that if as little as 5 percent of California’s rangelands was coated with one-quarter to one-half inch of compost, the resulting carbon sequestration would be the equivalent of the annual greenhouse emissions of nine million cars. The diversion of green waste from the state’s overcrowded landfills would also prevent it from generating methane, another potent greenhouse gas.

    Some scientists remain skeptical of regenerative agriculture, arguing that its impact will be small or will work only with certain soils. It also faces significant obstacles, such as a scarcity of research funding and the requirements of federal crop insurance, which frequently disqualifies farmers who plant cover crops….

    …. In a region [TX and OK] where rainfall is usually precious, some conventional soil has become so lifeless that it absorbs as little as half an inch of water per hour, Mr. Durham said, while regenerative fields can absorb more than eight inches an hour.

    Mr. Durham’s farmers are learning a lesson that resonates throughout human interactions with the natural world: People reap more benefit from nature when they give up trying to vanquish it and instead see it clearly, as a demanding but indispensable ally. Because of carbon’s climate change connection, we’ve been conditioned to think of it as the enemy, when in fact it’s as vital to life as water. The way to make amends is to put it back in the soil, where it belongs.

     

  5. Ellie’s UN COP23 Bonn Blog: Chumamich for a safe climate

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    By Ellie Cohen Point Blue Conservation Science November 22, 2017

    It was an inspiring couple of weeks in Germany for the 2017 UN climate meeting representing Point Blue for its first time as an official Observer Organization.  COP23 (the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change), convened by Fiji and hosted by Bonn, focused on developing the “rulebook” for implementing the 2015 Paris climate agreement to keep increases in global temperature well below 2°C or 3.6°F since the pre-industrial era.

    COP23 was the first ever with essentially two US delegations.  One was an official State Department group that generally kept a low profile (except for their “clean fossil fuel” session that was met by singing protesters!).

    US federal delegation office COP23 Nov 2017 Bonn

    The official US Delegation offices at COP23– closed door for the most part.

    The other was a group of over 2500 cities, states and businesses committed to meeting the US emissions reductions goal under the Paris accord, led by Governor Jerry Brown, former NY City Mayor Mike Bloomberg and others.  Under the slogan “we are still in,” they launched “America’s Pledge” at the alternative US Climate Action pavilion. I was honored to present (see pdf here) on California’s innovative approaches to nature-based climate solutions as part of a panel organized by The Nature Conservancy on that same stage a couple days earlier.  Click here to see my blog post with links to videos of the US Climate Action pavilion presentations and here for the full listing of COP23 on-demand videos of press conferences and other meetings.

    Ellie at UC Climate Action Center Cop23 Nov 2017

    At the US Climate Action Center.

    COP23 saw more inclusion of city and state voices, as well as more focus on women (women make up less than 6% of all the mayors in the world and less than 15% of all legislators) and the oceans.

    Mayors COP23 Summit of Local and Regional Leaders Nov 2017

    Mayors from all over the world participate in the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders.

    And, for the first-time ever, the countries (parties to the UNFCCC) agreed to work on agriculture and climate change, including how to improve adaptation, co-benefits and resilience; soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility, including water management; livestock management systems, as well as socioeconomic and food security aspects.  See here for my blog post for various views on key outcomes of COP23.

    On a personal note, it was fantastic to meet so many committed leaders from all over the world who are working towards our common goal of a safe climate and healthy planet.  In addition to meeting mayors, other elected officials, business people and top UN leaders from Pittsburgh and Peru to Kuwait and Mozambique, I had the honor of meeting colleagues from conservation non-profits across the globe.  Every time I introduced myself as being from California, I was warmly received!  And I found that Point Blue really is on the cutting edge of addressing nature-based solutions to benefit wildlife and human communities, although there is much more we need to do.

    Ellie and Mozambique Mayor Nov 2017 COP23

    With Mayor and regional leader, Maria Helena J. Correia Langa of Mandlakazi, Mozambique.

    Amidst all of the excitement, I felt that a sense of urgency was missing, not from the many scientists and civic leaders who presented, but from the formal negotiations (perhaps in part due to the lack of committed US leadership).

    FullSizeRender

    Leaders of island nations call for urgent action on climate change at COP23.  Pictured: Environmental Minister from Dominica addressing closing plenary.

    Fiji, as President of COP23, had hoped to light a fire under the delegates to take whatever actions are necessary before 2020 to stay below 1.5°C.  They, along with other “small island developing states” (or large ocean states, as described by one of their leaders!), are literally on the front lines of climate change, already experiencing devastating impacts from sea level rise and extreme storm events.  Despite the ‘drua’ (traditional ocean sailing canoe) situated prominently at the conference venue, the bigger-than-life island photos adorning walls throughout and other reminders that we are all literally in the same boat, my guess is that they may also have been disappointed with the lack of significant progress.

    Gov Jerry Brown Summit Local Reg Leaders COP23 Nov 2017

    CA Governor Jerry Brown speaking at one of several COP23 appearances.

    We know we need dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas pollution and removal of warming gases from the atmosphere– including from nature-based solutions- to secure a safe climate by 2100.

    Natural Climate Solutions Nov 2017

    New study on nature-based solutions from the Nature Conservancy and other partners.

    As Governor Brown concluded at the US Climate Action Pavilion, “economy is rooted in ecosystems”…. and “we are not where we need to be to prevent catastrophic warming.” He stated emphatically that “we have to create a different consciousness about what it is to be a human being in the 21st century.”  He implored us, “Don’t be complacent.  We face unprecedented threats to everything we hold dear.  Be on the edge of your seat.  Push yourself to the furthest degree. Billions of people are depending on us to go even further.”

    Powerful… and true.

    Hilda Heine, the first woman President of the Marshall Islands, shared the meaning of the Fijian word “chumamich” – tenacity, determination, and resilience on a long sea voyage when tasked with ensuring the safety of the passengers on the journey.

    Working together with “chumamich,” each of us must redouble our efforts to secure a healthy future for us all.

    Note: Photos by Ellie Cohen/Point Blue.

  6. UN Climate Meetings: agreement to move forward on agriculture and climate change

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    November 22, 2017

    After 4+ years of negotiations, countries (parties to the UNFCCC) agreed to work on a series of efforts around agriculture and climate change.  Below are some highlights from the draft recommendations.  Countries and observers have been asked to submit their views on what should be included in the work by 31 March 2018, with options including how to improve soil carbon and fertility, how to assess adaptation and resilience and the creation of better livestock management systems.

    From the Recommendation of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice for approval by COP23 UNFCCC:

    …Invites parties and observers to submit by 31 March 2018, their views on elements to be included in the work referred to in paragraph 1 above for consideration at the forty eighth session of the subsidiary bodies (April–May 2018), starting with but not limited to the following:

    Parties should submit their views via the submission portal at, starting with but not limited to the following:
    (a) Modalities for implementation of the outcomes of the five in-session workshops
    on issues related to agriculture and other future topics that may arise from this work;
    (b) Methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits and resilience;
    (c) Improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland as well as integrated systems, including water management;
    (d) Improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and
    resilient agricultural systems;
    (e) Improved livestock management systems;
    (f) Socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector.
  7. COP23: Key outcomes agreed at the UN climate talks in Bonn

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    Three perspectives on the outcomes of the UNFCCC’s COP23 in Bonn, Germany:

    …COP23, the second “conference of the parties” since the Paris Agreement was struck in 2015, promised to be a somewhat technical affair as countries continued to negotiate the finer details of how the agreement will work from 2020 onwards.

    However, it was also the first set of negotiations since the US, under the presidency of Donald Trump, announced its intention earlier this year to withdraw from the Paris deal. And it was the first COP to be hosted by a small-island developing state with Fiji taking up the presidency, even though it was being held in Bonn…

    Carbon Brief covers all the summit’s key outcomes and talking points.

    • Paris ‘rulebook’
    • Fights over finance
    • Loss and damage
    • Agriculture
      • One notable, yet low-profile outcome from the conference this year was the end of a deadlock on agriculture which had lasted for years. Parties agreed to work over the next few years on a series of issues linking climate change and agriculture. They agreed to streamline two separate technical discussions on this topic into one process. Countries have now been asked to submit their views on what should be included in the work by 31 March 2018, with options including how to improve soil carbon and fertility, how to assess adaptation and resilience and the creation of better livestock management systems.
    • The ‘gateway’
    • Road ahead in 2018

    Closing the climate talks, two ‘rays of light’: What happens when a major world emitter steps away from the table?

    The 23rd annual “Conference of Parties” (or COP23, in UN-speak) closed Friday with two key messages:

    1. The 195 countries signing the Paris Agreement (yes, that includes the United States, albeit quietly) remain committed to a collective framework on international climate action, and
    2. The international community still has yet to send a strong signal that it is committed to transitioning away from fossil fuels.
    True, an alliance of 19 countries, headed by the UK and Canada, committed on Thursday to phase out coal production. (The Guardian, calling the move “a political watershed” in its headline, noted that electricity produced by coal in the UK has fallen from 40 percent to 2 percent since 2012).

    But little progress was made defining specific emissions-cutting guidelines. Activists call for a “robust set of rules,” but that rulebook remains woefully thin. (A U.S. talk about the necessity of fossil fuels sparked one of the conference’s biggest protests. Our quick read: “Song, dance and protests at US energy talk.” Ecowatch has a first-person account.)

    The Center for International Environmental Law saw “two rays of light:” Governments agreed to integrate gender equality into climate action, and they committed to giving indigenous peoples equal footing in UN climate responses.

    It is further sign that the climate talks are also becoming the way the global community addresses environmental and social justice.

    “The decisions related to gender and indigenous peoples are welcome developments,” said Sébastien Duyck, a senior attorney for CIEL. The climate talks, he said, are “where theory becomes practice, with real consequences for communities around the globe.

    Plenty of end-of-session wrap-ups on the web, from the Associated Press, France24, Climate Home News, The New York Times and The Guardian (in pictures).

  8. FAO launches new Climate-Smart Agriculture web platform

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    November 10, 2017 Bonn read full FAO news release here

    Photo: ©Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos for FAO

    A FAO-supported project in Bhagawoti Kauledhara, Nepal.

    10 November 2017, Rome – To help steer our food systems in a sustainable direction, FAO has produced a new sourcebook for how to implement “climate-smart” approaches to agriculture, launched today at the Agriculture Action Day on the sidelines of the COP23 climate summit in Bonn.

    “Hunger, poverty, and climate can be tackled together through approaches such as Climate-Smart Agriculture that recognize the critical linkages between sustainable agriculture and strategies that promote resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change,” said René Castro, Assistant Director-General of the Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department of FAO.

    Ultimately, the world needs to produce 50 percent more food to feed nearly 10 billion people in 2050, and to find a way to do so with only a quarter of current per capita carbon emissions, Castro noted.

    The online Climate-Smart Agriculture Sourcebook – Second Edition 2017 is the result of one of FAO’s major areas of work that comes on the heels of the recently launched FAO’s  Climate Change Strategy.

    It comprises a wide range of knowledge and expertise to help guide policy makers, programme managers, academics, extension services and other practitioners make the agricultural sectors more sustainable and productive while also contributing to food security and lower carbon intensity….

  9. UN Climate Meetings- Where are we? Process for Implementing Paris Accords, Rise of Focus on Agriculture

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    Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

    [Ellie’s Note: this UNFCCC Conference of the Parties (COP23) meeting in Bonn continued the process of agreeing on the rules for implementing the Paris Accords.  This is a multi-year consensus effort. After 5 years of debate, according to an UN Food and Ag Organization (FAO) leader and others, parties agreed to include agriculture in the Paris Agreement rule book (more on the importance of the rule book here) for the first time. See some background on UNFCC’s discussions around agriculture and land use here. Agriculture as a source of GHG emissions but also as a part of the solution was on the agenda in this year’s COP23 unlike ever before according to many people I spoke with.]

    November 17, 2017 read today’s full Climate Home Bonn Bulletin here

    That is the summary of the questions to be answered through the “talanoa dialogue”, which officially starts as these talks wrap up. Fiji will convene a year-long process alongside 2018 [UNFCCC COP24] hosts Poland, according to an informal note published late on Thursday.

    The plan, which they will ask ministers to endorse this afternoon, takes the UN special report on 1.5C due next September as a key input – anchoring that and not 2C as the target. A draft “Bula momentum for implementation” confirmed the need for an extra meeting next year to make sure the Paris rulebook gets finished….

     

     

  10. Conversion to organic farming globally can secure sustainable food system & GHG reductions

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    • A global conversion to organic farming can contribute to a profoundly sustainable food system, provided that it is combined with a one-third reduction of animal-based products in the human diet, less concentrated feed and less food waste.
    • Organic farming has extremely positive ecological effects, i.e. considerable reduction of fertilizers and pesticides, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions — and does not lead to increased land use, despite lower agricultural yields.

    November 15, 2017 Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt | Graz | Wien  Read full ScienceDaily article here

    …The results reveal that, combined with abstaining from the use of concentrated feed in livestock production, a corresponding reduction in the consumption of animal products and a drop in food waste, organic agriculture has the potential to play a significant role in a sustainable nutrition system.

    In this way, it would be possible to secure the provision of food for the global population even in the event of a population size above 9 billion in the year 2050; land use would not increase, and the negative effects of today’s intensive nutrition system such as high nitrogen surplus levels or elevated pesticide loads would be reduced considerably. Furthermore, such a system would reduce considerably the greenhouse gas emissions from land use and the livestock systems, important drivers of climate change.”

    However, as long as changes in consumption patterns as accompanying measures are not implemented, the critics will be right: Organic agricultural methods concomitant with unchanged consumption patterns would entail an increased demand for land. This would offset the advantages of organic farming and would thus significantly reduce or even call into question its contribution towards a sustainable development.

    Adrian Muller, Christian Schader, Nadia El-Hage Scialabba, Judith Brüggemann, Anne Isensee, Karl-Heinz Erb, Pete Smith, Peter Klocke, Florian Leiber, Matthias Stolze, Urs Niggli. Strategies for feeding the world more sustainably with organic agriculture. Nature Communications, 2017; 8 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-01410-w