COP21 at Paris has come and gone. Long months, days and hours of hard work, intense dialogue, learning and negotiations, with the ultimate purpose of attempting to address the deep complexities of climate change – ecological, social and financial – have passed.
The outcome of COP21 was a collaborative global climate agreement, the first ever of its kind and a formal acknowledgement of the seriousness of the climate situation.The outcome has made most country leaders satisfied. What has been dubbed the ‘Paris Agreement’ is a bold commitment to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius. Whether this is possible under the current inertia of our fossil fuel dependent economy is yet to be seen. But this is a good start. Xie Zhenhua, the senior Chinese climate change negotiator, said, “The agreement is not perfect, and there are some areas in need of improvement.” But he added, “This does not prevent us from marching forward with this historic step.”
The encouraging news is that the role of ecosystem health, regenerative agriculture, forests, living soil, and other biological carbon sinks in the fight against climate change were acknowledged and discussed beyond our expectations. Even more promising is that the crucial role of livestock in regenerating soils and sequestering carbon was also acknowledged.
The Savory Institute travelled to Paris to join the thousands of individuals from around the world to show we deeply care, to offer solutions, and to engage in a series of strategic conversations and multiple meeting sessions advocating for the inclusion of regenerative soil practices in the first ever global climate agreement. The ultimate goal was to put pressure on leaders to take action and address the root cause (as well as the symptoms) of the climate crisis. Savory Institute’s CEO, Daniela Ibarra-Howell and COO, Tré Cates, attended the Global Landscapes Forum while in Paris. More than 3000 people came together at the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum to forge solutions to the planet’s greatest climate and development challenges through sustainable land use. Savory representatives also participated in working sessions with a variety of key partners as well as reconnect with various friends united in the cause of land restoration. These friends included The Nature Conservancy’s CEO, Mark Tercek, and its Global Lands Director, Justin Adams, as well as EcoAgriculture Partners Executive Director, Sara Scherr, Founder of Sustainable Food Trust, Patrick Holden, UNCCD External Relations and Policy Advisor, Louise Baker, filmmaker John Liu, Kiss the Ground Policy Director, Finian Makepeace, and many others.
Savory Institute CEO, Daniela Ibarra-Howell with UNCCD ERPA Unit Coordinator, Louise Baker
Simultaneously, Savory’s Director of Public Outreach Chris Kertson and Soil for Climate founder, Seth Itzkan, united with Regeneration International partners and hit the ground in Paris in a grassroots effort to engage the people of Paris to sign the Soil Manifesto petition – a call for action to the global climate leaders to include regenerative soil practices in the global climate agreement. You too can sign the Soil Manifesto here.
Savory Institute and UNCCD will take these Soil Manifesto signatures and the will of the people to the continued dialogues post Paris and in preparation for Marrakesh. The next meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP22) will be held in the city of Marrakech, Morocco. The issue of “loss and damage” will take center stage, to explore how developing countries can get climate aid in the event of extreme weather events. But there is another more powerful angle to empowering people in the face of climate change than aid: for a third of the Earth’s land surface, it is the regeneration of grasslands, the restoration of their ecological integrity, as well as the associated livelihoods, food and water security, and prosperity of the 1 billion people that depend on these lands. Additionally, grasslands restoration can address the social dynamics associated with their degradation, such as displacement and migration.
The Holistic Management of the grasslands of the world can help mitigate climate change and its symptoms. More abundant and diverse, healthier green plants growing on regenerating soils, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and putting it where it belongs – our soils – is the basic process. The power of plants is photosynthesis! Tapping onto the free source of solar energy and converting it into food for the web of life. For eons, plants in the grasslands of the world have been converted into nutrient rich and healthy protein by herbivores, thus completing the biological cycle of life. Soils rich in organic matter (carbon) are resilient, productive, and regulate water and nutrient cycles.
Governments know their policies need changing if we are to address land degradation, climate change, poverty, and water and food insecurity. “The world finally has a framework for cooperating on climate change that’s suited to the task,” said Michael Levi, an expert on energy and climate change policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. “Whether or not this becomes a true turning point for the world, though, depends critically on how seriously countries follow through.” Corporations know consumers will begin to demand better, healthier, more nutritious food and fibers, more transparent supply chains, and much higher accountability of environmental and social impact. We all know what needs to be done. Beyond the political will needed, there is a question that remains unanswered. How to do this in the needed timeframe? How to execute? How to scale?
We at Savory believe the approach needs to be local, grassroots, entrepreneurial, and highly supported. Savory network of Hubs and accredited professionals are excited to be positioned globally to assist in operationalizing the commitments of nations and corporations and the rightful demands of citizens in their regions around food, fiber, and agriculture. Locally led and managed entrepreneurial Hubs disseminated around the world and are connected to each other, and partners, working with land managers, the boots on the ground, implementing, learning, supporting, teaching, and serving the restoration of the grasslands of the world. That is how we scale the solutions.
With Savory Hubs now in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya (multiple), Ethiopia, Turkey, Argentina, Chile, Mexico (multiple), Australia, USA (multiple), Canada, UK, and Sweden, and more joining every year, hundreds of entrepreneurs and thousands of farmers, ranchers and pastoralists are coming together in a network of game changers, implementing Holistic Management to heal the land, feed the people, reactivate economies, and restore climate. We have begun a cultural movement of land managers, consumers, and activists who are already doing their part in supporting the sequestration of carbon into the soil where it belongs through the tool of properly managed livestock.
New partnerships are being launched in new regions from Southeast Asia, to Eastern Europe, to the Middle East, to the Sahel, and with them more learning, more capacity, more Hubs, more carbon in the soil.
Au revoir Paris! It has been a great ride! Now, let’s get saddled for Marrakech, and unite in making soils, land regeneration, and the transformation of agriculture take the center stage.