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    4 Takeaways From COP28: Agriculture Moves to the Global Climate Stage

    December 11, 2023

    With additional reporting by Max DuBuisson.

    COP28, which just wrapped up in Dubai, UAE, demonstrated that agriculture now has a seat at the table in the global climate change discussion, with food systems, carbon accounting, Scope 3 action, and voluntary carbon markets all taking a prominent role in the agenda this year. The formal Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda in Dubai had four pillars — focusing on non-state actors, scaling up innovation, finance, and national leadership. These pillars highlight the importance of private sector actors and governments' roles in setting the course for business.

    In the days leading up to COP28, our Indigo Ag team, including CEO Ron Hovsepian, Chief of Staff Ewan Lamont, and Director of Carbon Policy & Partnerships Meredith Reisfield, had the chance to join a lineup of nearly 400 executives from over 140 global companies during the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Council Meeting. The meeting was designed for CEOs and senior execs from WBCSD’s member companies to connect in a pre-COP setting to align on collective asks and action areas. Our team got to share remarks on financing and de-risking farmers’ transition to regenerative agriculture and discuss the case for taking action beyond the value chain.Screen Shot 2023-12-11 at 12-18-39 PM

    By the end of the week, the official COP venues opened up—the Blue Zone for those accredited by parties (i.e., countries participating in the UNFCCC) and observer organizations (i.e., NGOs), the Green Zone for everyone, as well as side conferences and events around Dubai. As week 1 got into full swing, Max DuBuisson, VP and Head of Sustainability Policy & Engagement, focused four different panel sessions in the Blue Zone. These included the three mentioned in our pre-COP blog post, as well as another session in the Save Soil Pavilion on “Carbon Finance to Crafting Policies: Easing Farmers' Access to Carbon Finance” with moderator Dr. Praveena Sridhar, Chief Science & Technology Officer of Conscious Planet’s Save Soil Movement. Max was joined by Natural Capitalism Solutions President Hunter Lovins and Sekem Project Manager Naglaa Ahmed. Although “pavilions” at COP are actually more akin to large trade show booths, the Save Soil pavilion was located within the food and health “thematic arena” (I.e., building) along with several other important pavilions that are relevant to Indigo. We applaud the trend over the past few years of an increasing presence of food and agriculture, both in the discourse but also in the physical spaces.

    These conversations were inspiring and invigorating and made it clear that the work we are doing to leverage market-based climate finance to sustainably transform agricultural land management around the world is incredibly important. It is also clear that Indigo has made important advancements and innovations, demonstrating that it is possible to generate credits and deliver sustainable commodities with scientific rigor in a way that benefits farmers and the earth. But it is also abundantly clear that we have a long way to go before the majority of farmers have adopted more sustainable management practices and are receiving the necessary financial incentives.

    Luckily, COP is an excellent reminder that there is a multitude of passionate and capable individuals and organizations around the world that are potential partners in this journey.

    A few things that really struck a chord with us at COP this year:

    1. A focus on food – Coming out of COP28, it’s clear this year’s summit represents a major moment for transitioning food systems to regenerative models. Action on food and agriculture has long stood in the shadows of climate negotiations despite accounting for a third of global emissions and being highly vulnerable to climate change. Global policy commitments and announcements of new funding, initiatives and industry coalitions are elevating the topic to a new level on the global climate stage. There were at least four pavilions in the Blue Zone dedicated to food and agriculture specifically, and many others with related themes holding sessions that touched on the topic!
    2. It’s not just about carbon – The UNFCCC’s raison d’etre is, per the last two C’s in its name, solving climate change. But it is an accepted fact, even amongst the carbon traders, industrial emitters, standards bodies, etc., that climate mitigation must also protect nature, biodiversity, and the human condition. This shift has been in motion over the last few years, but it is refreshing to see it really take hold.
    3. The growing status of the VCM – The voluntary carbon market (VCM) was also a hot topic this year, there seems to be broad consensus that delivery of the Paris Agreement Goals will be harder and more expensive without access to high integrity emissions trading markets. The COP Presidency hosted its own roundtable on the VCM, at which UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell was reported as saying,"No developing country who wants to use voluntary carbon markets should be left behind." World Bank President Ajay Banga and United States Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry also weighed in with strong words of support.
    4. Time is running out – It’s becoming more likely that we have missed our chance to keep warming below 1.5 C (see this article in Nature from last month). This should terrify all of us and spur the world to take a hard look at priorities and investments. Increasingly, advocates from different sectors are coalescing around the idea that we need to pursue all the solutions: phasing out fossil fuels, reducing energy use, reducing and avoiding emissions, removing carbon into durable storage, protecting and restoring nature, protecting water resources, and supporting affected communities

    As always, this COP was tiring and confusing, but also chock full of information and relationships, both new and existing. We appreciate the opportunities the event affords for Indigo to communicate about our work and the successes of our farmer partners, but even more we appreciate the opportunity to connect with the global community that is working to transform agriculture to help people and nature, while also improving food security and making a range of supply chains more sustainable.

    We return to our offices ready to act on the new ideas and relationships that we accumulated!