Forty-five governments, led by the UK, will pledge urgent action and investment to protect nature and shift to more sustainable ways of farming at the COP26 Nature and Land-Use Day happening today (Saturday 6 November). Approximately one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, forestry and other land-use – creating an urgent need to reform the way we grow and consume food in order to tackle climate change.
Urgent action on land use is needed as demand for food increases. We are currently losing forests, damaging soils and rapidly destroying other ecosystems that play a critical role in absorbing carbon and cooling the planet.?Farmers’ livelihoods are also under increasing pressure as climate change impacts on productivity. To help farmers adapt and to make our food system more resilient for the future, more sustainable practices are essential.
Countries from across the world will set out their commitment to transform agriculture and food systems through policy reforms, research and innovation in order to reduce emissions and protect nature, whilst securing food and jobs. This includes leveraging over US$4bn billion of new public sector investment into agricultural innovation, including the development of climate resilient crops and regenerative solutions to improve soil health, helping make these techniques and resources affordable and accessible to hundreds of millions of farmers.
This commitment includes a pledge to support internationally agreed “Action Agendas” which set out steps that governments, farmers and others can take through policy reform and innovation to deliver the changes necessary for sustainable food systems. Sixteen countries will launch a “Policy Action Agenda” and more than 160 stakeholders will join a “Global Agenda for Innovation in Agriculture” to lead the way on the global transition towards climate resilient agriculture and food systems to more sustainable ways of farming.
As part of the Prime Minister’s commitment to spend at least £3 billon of International Climate Finance on nature and biodiversity, the UK will launch a new £500 million package to help protect five million hectares of rainforests from deforestation, an area equivalent to over 3.5 million football pitches. The funding will create thousands of green jobs, including in sustainable agriculture and forestry, throughout rainforest regions and generate £1bn of green private sector investment to tackle climate change around the world.
Speaking ahead of Nature and Land-Use day, Environment Secretary George Eustice said:
“To keep 1.5 degrees alive, we need action from every part of society, including an urgent transformation in the way we manage ecosystems and grow, produce and consume food on a global scale.
“We need to put people, nature and climate at the core of our food systems. The UK government is leading the way through our new agricultural system in England, which will incentivise farmers to farm more sustainably, create space for nature on their land and reduce carbon emissions.
“There needs to be a fair and just transition that protects the livelihoods and food security of millions of people worldwide – with farmers, indigenous people and local communities playing a central role in these plans.”
UK will also outline a range of new funding commitments from the £3bn fund for nature, including:
- Nearly £25m out of the £150m from BEIS’ Mobilising Finance for Forests (MFF) programme will be invested to develop sustainable supply chains in tropical countries
- An investment of over £38 million into a new global research initiative through the world’s leading agricultural research organisation, the CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research), to address the climate crisis and protect nature while advancing gender equality, poverty reduction, and food and nutrition security
- The UK will contribute up to £40 million of international climate finance to establish the Global Centre on Biodiversity for Climate. The Global Centre will address critical research gaps in how the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity can deliver climate solutions and improve livelihoods in developing countries
The UK will also launch a £65 million Just Rural Transition support programme to help developing countries move towards more sustainable methods of agriculture and food production. This will include support to ensure that farmers are included in policy-making processes, including through consultations, trials and pilot programmes for new technologies and approaches.
The UK will announce its support for the US/UAE-led Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C) which will mobilise over £4bn billion of new global public sector investment in agricultural innovation, research and development over the next five years with contributions from over 30 countries for public and private sector as well as knowledge partners.
These new partnerships will help accelerate adoption of more climate resilient and sustainable agriculture practices to deliver healthy diets, improve the trade in agricultural goods, contributing to a healthier planet and a more prosperous future.
The production of commodities such as beef, soy, palm oil and cocoa is a major driver of deforestation. Twenty-eight governments, including the UK, representing 75% of global trade in key commodities that can threaten forests – such as palm oil, cocoa and soya – have come together through the Forest, Agriculture and Commodity Trade (FACT) Roadmap which was created at COP26 to deliver sustainable trade and reduce pressure on forests, including support for smallholder farmers and improving the transparency of supply chains.
As holders of this year’s G7 and COP26 Presidency, Nature and Land-Use day will build on the Government’s promise to lead both the UK and the nations of the world to build back greener, secure a global net zero and keep 1.5 degrees within reach.
In a landmark step, almost 100?high-profile UK companies will agree to work towards halting and reversing the decline of nature by 2030 and commit to getting ‘Nature Positive’. This includes OVO Energy announcing its commitment in planting one million trees in the UK within the next year and Severn Trent pledging to restore over 2,000 acres of peatland across England and Wales by 2025. Burberry has also unveiled a new biodiversity strategy, which includes the assurance that all its key material will be 100% traceable by 2025, for instance, through sourcing more sustainable cotton, leather and wool, as well as recycled polyester and nylon. Commitments also include a pledge by Co-op, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose to cut their environmental impact across climate, deforestation and nature in a ‘Retailers Commitment for Nature’ with WWF.
UK Clean Growth, Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said:
“If we are to keep the 1.5 degrees target in reach, we need to work with other nations to halt global deforestation, investing in the sustainable trading of commodities that will help communities thrive, while protecting our planet for generations to come.
“Backed by a £500m package of support, today’s historic UK commitment at COP26 will help protect millions of hectares of land, boosting rural communities and forest-friendly businesses, while creating thousands of green jobs across the world’s rainforest regions.”
WWF Chief Executive, Tanya Steele, said: “The climate and nature crisis are two sides of the same coin and we can’t turn things around unless we transform our food system, which is destroying forests and habitats in some of our most fragile landscapes. The commitment from leading UK supermarkets to halve the food retail sector’s environmental impact by 2030 will help millions of families make their weekly shop greener and help reverse the loss of nature.”
Justin Adams, Executive Director, Tropical Forest Alliance, World Economic Forum said:
“The FACT Dialogue process has created new momentum – from 28 countries – to work on issues of trade, forests and finance in an integrated way. Bringing these governments together – from the global south and north – to tackle the issue of commodity production and deforestation head on is a very significant development. Continued dialogue after COP26 will be critical to progress.”