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ICOS attends high level conference on climate change in Paris

Agriculture can play a positive role in combating climate change. This was the key message which stemmed from a high level conference on climate change and agriculture organised by COPA-COGECA and the World Farmers’ Organisation in Paris on 4th December.

On behalf of ICOS, I travelled to the event in Paris, as negotiations continued elsewhere in the city to reach a global agreement on climate change. The conference speakers included farmers from Malawi, Zambia, Argentina, Canada, Indonesia and the UK. The Prime Minister of France, Mr. Manuel Valls formally closed the event.

In contrast to the negative and often divisive rhetoric associated with agriculture’s role in the climate change debate, the Director of the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA), Mr. Jean-Francois Soussanna pointed out that agriculture can help bridge the gap in global emissions by sequestrating carbon through soil management and forestry.

Mr. Soussanna also referred to a new initiative called “4 per 1000”, which is aimed at increasing research efforts into measuring and building up carbon stored in soil. Initial research and calculations has shown that an increase of 0.4% in carbon stored in all the world’s soils each year would fully compensate for manmade CO2 emissions. Of significance, the Irish Government at COP-21 signed up to this important initiative, agreeing to increase research into this key area.

The President of the NFU in the UK, Meurig Raymond stressed that farmers need support and solutions. According to the NFU leader, latest research into mitigation needs to be transferred to the farmer in an easily understandable way. Don McCabe, the President of Ontario Federation of Agriculture in Canada called on the negotiators involved at the climate change talks to recognise that farmers are the custodians of the land, that farmers are the solution not the problem and its vital to support them.

Manuel Valls, the Prime Minister of France brought proceedings to a conclusion by stressing the importance of sustainable agriculture. In his remarks, he noted three key areas for agriculture: 1) Increased research and development in order to develop solutions to help mitigate and adapt to climate change, 2.)  International collaboration in order to learn best practices, 3.) Increased carbon storage in agricultural soils.

By Eamonn Farrell

Agri & Food Policy Executive