Why Isn't Sustainable Agriculture on the Climate Summit Agenda?

The Paris Climate Summit starts at the end of November with one of the main causes (and solutions) for climate change absent from the agenda: Agriculture.  

In 2006, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released a report that showing the meat and dairy industries combined produce more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation.

Industrial agriculture is based on fossil fuels – the equipment, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides all depend on them. And much of the world’s energy-intensive monocultures are grown to feed farm animals, a problem that will only increase with population growth and a focus on meat-based diets.

Tumbling Run

Fertilizer Seems So Innocent

Calling fertilizer companies the "Exxons of Agriculture," GRAIN documents how they are blocking attention to agriculture through massive lobbying.

Fertilizers contribute up to 10% of global greenhouse gases (nitrous oxide is 300 times more potent than carbon), pollutes the soil and causes dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico and other waterways. Nitrous oxide is also the most significant contributor to the destruction of the ozone layer, but the industry is managing to prevent policies that would help farmers kick the habit. And fracked natural gas has become the energy source for fertilizer production. 

While people associate oil companies with fracking, fertilizer companies are the end market for most of the natural gas that is produced. Fertilizers – especially nitrogen-based ones – require enormous amounts of energy to produce, estimated at 1-2% of total global energy consumption.

Read our article, Why Big Agriculture Could Become Major Fracking Ally.

GRAIN says the fertilizer industry managed to infiltrate the UN Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture, launched last year, by taking top spots on the steering committee. Of the Alliance’s 29 non-governmental founding members, three are fertilizer industry lobby groups, two are the world’s largest fertilizer companies (Yara of Norway and Mosaic of the US). 60% of private sector members are in the fertilizer industry.

In North America, for instance, fertilizer companies and lobby groups co-founded the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture with Monsanto and many big food companies.

Sadly, eliminating chemical fertilizers is among the easiest, most effective ways to act on climate change. A worldwide switch to agroecological practices would achieve the same yields without chemicals, says GRAIN.

Read GRAIN’s report, "The Exxons of Agriculture":

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