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Politicians Are Considering Paying Farmers to Store Carbon. But Some Environmental and Agriculture Groups Say It’s Greenwashing
“A coalition of environmental, agriculture and justice groups is attempting to drum up opposition to legislation that aims to help farmers store carbon in the soil, a practice that’s become a key piece of the Biden administration’s strategy on climate change.” The Biden administration has the will to develop the use of a Voluntary Carbon Market within the US territory. Its objective would be to allow organizations to offset their emissions by paying farmers to keep the carbon in the soil.
Agriculture represents one of the most important sources of emissions. Matching Paris Agreement Goals will require actions to empower the carbon sinks, and agriculture has a lot of potential. “If farmers employ certain practices—for example, avoiding tilling the soil, planting carbon-fixing crops or using feed additives that reduce methane emissions from cows—they can help keep carbon in the soil, or cut the emission they produce.” To move this forward, the Voluntary Carbon Market and flow of money that come with it can be key.
However, opposition is rising against such use of the market. A letter, sent by 200 groups including major NGOs such as Greenpeace, the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth, expressed that their main concern is more on the “contributor side”. “These carbon offset schemes allow utilities, fossil fuel companies and other polluters to continue releasing greenhouse gases, instead of actually reducing and eliminating their emissions [...] This is because fossil fuel-based carbon extracted from where it has been sequestered underground for millions of years, safely trapped in the slow carbon cycle, cannot be offset by temporary actions in the short carbon cycle.”
This opposition is raising important concerns, especially that the Voluntary Carbon Market should not be used to allow organizations to keep their business as usual. It is an additional action to reduction strategies. Otherwise, it becomes Greenwashing.
More floods, fires and cyclones — plan for domino effects on sustainability goals
“Climate change is provoking ever-more-extreme events, from storms and droughts to floods and cyclones.” Climate change already has significant impacts in every part of the world through the multiplication and intensification of extreme natural events. It creates a dramatic domino effect that from environmental catastrophe can become a humanitarian disaster. “A heatwave can spark forest fires, which lead to air pollution, thus damaging public health. Drought-wrecked harvests can result in food-price volatility, which can increase social unrest or migration.”
The sustainable goals defined by the UN that range from the reduction of poverty to sustainable development, or the protection of natural ecosystems, might not have taken this multiplication of extreme events into account. “Part of the problem is perception. Future catastrophes feel unreal to decision-makers, as we’ve experienced with so many governments’ lack of pandemic preparedness, despite years of warning that something similar to COVID-19 was a case of when, not if .” For example, the pandemic has created an important backslash in progress made in reducing poverty.
What could be done to address this? Research is needed to have a deeper understanding of this domino effect, what it entails, and the actions that are needed to prevent further damage. “Researchers must create models that are more understandable and useful to policymakers. When possible, SDG targets and indicators should be redesigned to capture vulnerability to heatwaves, fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, mudslides, and more. And politicians need to be convinced to invest in precautionary measures and adaptation.”
New sustainable goals should be redesigned and should take into account those environmental catastrophes. Better risk management will also guide the investors. “Large investments in resilience measures can be difficult for politicians to justify to electorates because there are often no immediate returns, and the timing and magnitude of future extreme events are unknown. But avoiding such spending is much more costly in the long run, as shown by the current pandemic.”
Progress is on the way, but changes are needed quickly if we want to address the consequences of global warming better.
How to eat to save the planet, according to author Paul Greenberg
Sustainability goes hand in hand with food supply - climate change has a huge impact in this aspect of our lives. In this article, Paul Greenberg, a best-selling American author focusing on environmental and technology issues, shares tips on switching our diet to a more sustainable one. He regrouped 50 of them in his book called The Climate Diet that was released last week. Paul has the will to share solutions that do not require a fundamental change but multiple small practices. "You can dramatically reduce your carbon footprint with lots of little things, like cutting beef out of your diet or using an electric stove instead of gas."
Paul Greenberg shares his own experience and his habits related to food consumption:
- Switching beef for chicken. "The very simple act of switching from beef to chicken is just hugely powerful. With beef, you're talking about 27 kilos of carbon per five kilos of beef produced. With chicken, you're talking more in the order of five to six."
- Mixing animal-based protein with vegetable-based protein (such as tofu). It will allow you to reduce the meat you consume, lowering your carbon footprint.
- Growing your garden and producing some vegetables. It is easy and helps you keep a healthy diet.
Another important source of our emissions is linked to our waste. An easy way to tackle this is to compost organic waste. It significantly reduces the waste produced. "I really stress the importance of composting, because huge amounts of the emissions from methane in our landfills are coming from food waste."
All those small actions regrouped together can have a significant impact on your footprint.