Growing a better world together. If not now, when?

Prof dr Barbara Baarsma, CEO Rabo Carbon Bank

July 26 2021

Climate Change

Climate change is everywhere. You only have to open this week's newspapers to see reports of heat waves and forest fires in North America, unprecedented floods in Western Europe and the deadly post-monsoon floods in India. News items like this one show painfully clearly that lip service to climate change won't do anymore. According to researchers global heating will claim tens of millions of lives worldwide by 2100. We need to take climate change seriously and see it for what it is: a crisis.

This climate crisis has major consequences for all of us, but especially for vulnerable people and poorer communities. To make sure that inequality does not also affect our food system, we must make it more robust and resilient. Climate change is already impacting global food security because it affects the productivity of agricultural areas and because more extreme weather leads to more frequent crop failures. Concurrently, the world population will increase from about 7.5 to 10 billion people in 2050. To feed all these mouths, we must double food production and halve environmental impact at the same time. So, our food production should be four times as ecologically efficient.

Food Systems Pre-Summit

This week, the world will be turned to Rome for the Food Systems Pre-Summit. This is a preparatory event for the first-ever United Nations’ Food Systems Summit in September in New York. Precisely at the intersection of the climate crisis and a more robust food system, there is a world to be won. And you know what: it all starts with the soils of our earth, with the soils farmers work to produce our food. This may sound rather strange, but it is actually very intuitive. Just read along.

Per year, we emit 51 billion tons of CO2 equivalents into the atmosphere. But did you know that about a quarter of all those global greenhouse come from food and agriculture? And that about 60% of those emissions remains in the atmosphere. About 40% can be absorbed back in the natural carbon sinks of the earth, that is in soils, forests and oceans. So on the one hand agriculture emits a lot of greenhouse gases. And on the other hand, farmland has the capacity to remove carbon out of the atmosphere.

Carbon Farming

Soils and farm level interventions provide a means to reduce the environmental pressure of food production. Regenerative farming, like reducing tillage, crop rotations and planting cover crops, makes the soil healthier and has proven to reduce agriculture's own footprint. Moreover, a healthy soil can absorb more carbon. To further explain how this works, please read the white paper written by RaboResearch and FMO attached above. Farmers can sell this in the form of soil sequestered credits to corporates that seek to compensate for their non-avoidable emissions. Although the proceeds of these credits are important because they enable farmers to finance the transition to sustainable agriculture, the co-benefits are just as important. Think of: biodiversity, water management and more resilient and nitrous food production.

By helping to bring about this systemic change, we are bringing back balance between greenhouse gas emitted and removed. The Rabo Carbon Bank was set up to achieve this by offering voluntary high quality nature based carbon solutions in agrifood chains. We enable both large scale farmers and small holders to transition to carbon farming.

Carbon farming and healthier soils are essential ingredients for climate smart solutions for our food system. It is not without reason that the Food Systems Summit is talking about it extensively. I am proud that our CEO Wiebe Draijer will represent the Private Sector Guiding Group in the “Soil Health and Carbon Sequestration Call for Action Statement”. He will bring the coalition’s vision of facilitating the adoption and scaling of soil health restoration practices with outcomes for growth, productivity , rural livelihoods, climate and nature, including its call for action. I feel honoured to be able to introduce the importance of carbon farming at the affiliated section session “Accelerating and Scaling Investments in Soil Health”.

There is a saying from the time of the Roman Empire: ‘all roads lead to Rome’. Rome was known in those days for its exceptionally extensive road network. I sincerely hope that this saying also holds true during the coming week of the Pre-Summit in Rome. May the many conversations ultimately lead to a number of fundamental, meaningful and effective roads that can be converted into impactful policies in September in New York. If we cannot do this together now, when will we be able to?