There is an urgent need to change global agricultural practices or risk serious planetary consequences, according to a new report that was released just ahead of the COP27 meetings from a Sustainable Markets Initiative taskforce. The pace of change, switching to sustainable agricultural practices has been far too slow and must triple by 2030 for there to be any chance of keeping to a 1.5C of warming pathway.
The report highlights that regenerative practices focusing on soil health, emissions reductions and water use now are in use for 15% of cropped lands. The taskforce includes some big names, such as Bayer, McDonald’s, Olam, PepsiCo and Mars. A priority is to make the short-term economic case for change more enticing for grower communities, and to push for alignment for all players in the agri sector behind a rapid shift to more sustainable practices.
Indo-EU row over timber verification
There is a brewing spat between the EU and Indonesian timber exporters over a seeming moving of the goalposts by the EU over verification standards timber must meet before entry into the European bloc. Under the terms of a voluntary agreement signed in 2011, Indonesia developed a system to verify the legality of timber exports to the EU. The EU in turn agreed recognised this system and allowed Indonesia to issue the correct licences for timber products destined for the EU. However, the implantation of new due diligence import standards may mean that such timber will still be subject to further checks to ensure it is not the product of deforestation.
As reported by conservation news website Mongobay.com, Indonesian companies say that they found the process of complying with the existing verification process arduous and are not happy that there are further barriers to overcome. The nub of the issue appears to be that as far as Indonesian exporters are concerned, the earlier agreement required that proven legally sourced timber should get green lane access to the EU, and that the proposed due diligence rules will mean that this will be no longer the case. If the EU and Indonesia are unable to resolve the issue, it could eventually be referred to the World Trade Organisation, something that other timber exporter nations are rumoured to be considering.
COP focus on loss and damage
The UN COP27 climate summit at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt kicked off with discussion about compensation for poorer nations for the mounting impacts of climate change – a previously controversial topic. Known as loss and damage, proposals for a financing body were blocked at 2021’s COP26 in Scotland by wealthier nations, including the US and countries of the EU. However, the ongoing series of developing world climate crises, not least the recent flooding in Pakistan, seem to have focused minds and the COP27 delegates agreed to a process of discussion of funding for loss and damage intended to reach definite conclusions by 2024.
Big Oil will inevitably come under pressure to make a big contribution to any loss and damage fund. A new report from Global Justice Now argues that just Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP, Shell and Total should be paying $65bn a year based on their contribution to climate change. Watch this space.
Climate finance export credit solution
Also on the early COP agenda, related to the compensation discussions, were talks on climate finance more broadly, including funds for cutting emissions and climate adaptation. On the latter, the UK proposed the introduction of climate resilient debt clauses in government backed export credit insurance, which would allow for a halt in debt payments for two years from nations impacted by a climate-related disaster to provide funds to deal with an immediate crisis. This was welcomed by the prominent proponent of financial system reforms Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados. Listen to the COPwatch podcast here.