Last week, four thousand delegates from California and around the world gathered in San Francisco for the Global Climate Action Summit, hosted by Governor Jerry Brown.
CalCAN staff joined the delegation where we listened to international experts, presidents of island nations, indigenous and youth leaders and many more who laid out out the challenges before us: global greenhouse gas emissions must begin to decline by 2020 if we are to avert the melting of tundra and polar ice shelves. This clarion call was coupled with meaningful reminders of how far we have come in California and around the world to increase our reliance on renewable energy, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and hit “peak” global emissions. We heard from U.S. mayors and governors stepping up to reduce their local and state greenhouse gas emissions in the face of a recalcitrant White House that wants to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement.
Climate activists protested outside, many of whom are opposed carbon pricing schemes forwarded by California and other subnational and national governments. But those inside the summit and outside seemed well aligned on the need for urgent action to avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate.
One message was clear: that we cannot meet our greenhouse gas emission reduction goals without agricultural solutions to climate change. Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farm joined Secretary Ross and others to discuss how the California efforts to support climate smart agriculture are an important beginning, but must be scaled up to have an impact.
For CalCAN, we left the Summit inspired by others around the world who are forwarding sustainable agricultural solutions to climate change and challenged to expand our efforts to meaningfully address a warming planet in need of healthy soils and healthy food.
Below, we highlight several additional agriculture-related affiliate events attended by CalCAN staff throughout the week.
Scaling Up Climate Smart Agriculture
For the two days preceding the official Summit, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) hosted presentations and farm tours featuring food and farming solutions to climate change. The by-invitation event was attended by about 125 representatives from farms and ranches, food businesses, non-profit organizations, and government officials and staff. Discussions focused on the role of soil health and manure management practices, farmland conservation, technical assistance, policy and supply chains for reducing GHG emissions and sequestering carbon.
The first day was held at Saralee Vineyards in Sonoma County, the site of a Healthy Soils demonstration grant awarded to Jackson Family Wines and the Sonoma Resource Conservation District (RCD). The day began with a panel of farmers moderated by CalCAN’s Executive Director Renata Brillinger—Zwide Jere from Total LandCare in Malawi, Jimmy Emmons from Oklahoma and vice-president of No-Till on the Plains, and Jocelyn Bridson from Rio Farms. Though their approaches, context, scale, and crop types varied widely, the three speakers all emphasized the importance of focusing on soil health and climate smart practices that not only deliver climate benefits but also lead to economic and agronomic value for producers such as improved soil water holding capacity, increased yields, reduced inputs, and reduced labor costs.
The second day consisted of tours at an organic dairy in west Sonoma County and a grassfed beef operation in Marin County. Bordessa Dairy recently received an AMMP grant to install a solid separation system and improve their manure composting system, and they shared their experience working with the Carbon Cycle Institute and Gold Ridge RCD on various sustainable practices. At Stemple Creek Ranch, owner Loren Poncia shared his experiences managing pastures to improve soil health and carbon sequestration with intensive grazing strategies and compost applications.
Also during the event, CDFA Secretary Karen Ross and Glenda Humiston, Vice-President of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources announced a $1.1 million grant from the Strategic Growth Council to launch a partnership between the two agencies to add ten positions around the state to provide support and learn from producers about climate change.
Click here for a short video summarizing the CDFA event.
Managing Lands in a Changing Climate to Improve Agricultural Resilience, Food Security and Health
Co-sponsored by the California Department of Conservation and University of California, Davis, this symposium on September 10 brought together speakers and participants from all over the world to discuss climate solutions at the intersection of land use and management, agricultural resilience and health. The major call to action that emerged from the day was the need for holistic, integrated approaches that prioritize environmental and health co-benefits in strategies for land use planning, management and agricultural resilience, while also planning for climate change impacts in decades ahead. Speakers underscored the critical importance of scaling up land-based solutions, which are often overlooked and underfunded, while also anticipating how the climate will change in the coming decades and proactively adapting accordingly.
The Tale of Three Valleys Tour
The Tale of Three Valleys tour on September 11 was organized by the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and representatives from the Paris-Saclay Valley region in France. By including speakers from Silicon Valley, Coyote Valley and the Paris-Saclay Valley, the tour focused on the importance of open space, wildlife conservation and agricultural preservation not just in California, but globally. With continual urban growth and sprawl, cities around the world are needing to forge innovative partnerships with landowners, farmers, and land trusts to ensure agricultural preservation and the protection of native habitats and wildlife corridors to reduce and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Forests, Food, and Land Day: Meeting the 30×30 Challenge
There is no viable global solution to the climate crisis without addressing the land sector. How we use land for agriculture, forestry and other purposes has a greater impact on climate change than any other sector of the economy except energy. Yet, natural and working lands solutions receive less than 3% of climate funding, making them “the forgotten solution.”
That was the main message of this daylong event showcasing the hard work that farmers and ranchers, foresters, Indigenous peoples, businesses, and investors around the world are doing to fight climate change—who together, can deliver up to 30% of the climate solutions needed by 2030. So what do farmers and ranchers need to meet that challenge? And what role does the state play?
Fred Yoder, a fourth-generation corn, soy and wheat farmer speaking on a panel of farmers, said “Farmers need the opportunity to dip their toe in the water and try some things without fear,” meaning they need to have financial security to experiment with and transition to climate smart practices.
Ashley Conrad-Saydah, Deputy Secretary for Climate Change at Cal EPA, speaking on a panel about subnational progress integrating science, planning and implementation, said “Achieving our 2030 climate goals will require massive investments in the iconic natural and working landscapes that we as Californians love.”