This week - the week of the twenty-seventh UN Conference of the Parties (COP27) - Regrow Ag is turning six years old. It is an important time of reflection for all climate leaders globally and for us, internally, at Regrow.
For most people who are paying attention to the climate crisis, the UN’s recently released Adaptation Gap Report 2022 and its resounding warning of “not enough” is weighing on our minds. The report states that while climate change adaptation planning, financing and implementation is increasing globally, our current actions are not keeping pace with the growing risks. Not only does current adaptation practice fall short of what is needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2050, current policies point to a 2.8°C rise by the end of the century.
“The world has a very unforgiving deadline, and there’s still so much work to be done.”
-Alice C. Hill, CFR Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment
In a year of record heat waves, floods, droughts, and other extreme weather events, I don’t believe anyone needs to be reminded that the inability to meet this unforgiving climate deadline will bring real, dire consequences; in fact, the consequences are already upon us. The World Food Programme has called 2022 “A Year of Unprecedented Hunger,” reporting that the number of those facing acute food insecurity has soared - from 135 million to 345 million - since 2019, leaving 50 million people teetering on the edge of famine. While of course the climate-induced challenges have been greatly exacerbated by supply chain issues resulting from the pandemic and a dictator-inflicted war, we should remember that the world is only likely to see more unrest if future food production cannot keep up with population growth. In the oft-quoted words of Nobel Laureate Lord John Boyd Orr, “You can’t build peace on empty stomachs.”
As Regrowers, we regularly see data on the adoption of regenerative agriculture, and we agree that what is happening now is not enough, both in terms of adoption status and the pace of change. We also believe that transitioning to regenerative agriculture is one of the most important things the world can do to adapt to climate change, reduce GHG emissions, and build future resilience on our path to net zero. The agrifood industry is responsible for about one-third of GHG emissions, so changing the way we collectively produce food is absolutely necessary to shift from being a big part of the problem to a key part of the solution.
But along with all the concern, there is growing hope. For Regrow, the continued growth of our company over the past year, supported by a $38M Series B funding round, has bolstered our resolve. Our global team can also see changes being implemented on farmers’ fields every week…acre by acre (actually, millions of acres!)...state by state…country by country. We work every day with sustainability leaders at some of the world’s biggest agrifood brands and carbon project developers, and we see their commitment to reducing ag supply chain emissions, building transparent and trustworthy carbon markets, and helping farmers switch to regenerative ag practices that will improve their soil health and make their crops more climate-resilient. In the past year alone, we’ve announced partnerships with Cargill, General Mills, Kellogg Company, and South Pole, and we are proud to support them in moving the needle on the global transformation of food production.
We see the agrifood industry finding its fit in this new era of radical collaboration for climate action. We see new cross-supply chain partnerships and the rise of grassroots movements. Collectively we, as the agrifood industry and business community, are starting to do something right. And we must find strength to do more, and scale what works.
I agree with the recent SMI Agribusiness Markets Initiative action plan recommendation that farmers need more support and better terms to adopt the regenerative practices we are asking them to embrace; the onus should not and cannot be entirely on their shoulders. Companies need to underwrite their corporate commitments with investments. Innovators need to bring industry along on the journey and deliver the scaling of transformation. Sustainability leaders need to continue putting climate wins on the board. Governments need to embrace the costs of the wait to their nation and others. Policy makers need to offer clarity to everyone involved in soil carbon measurement and ecosystem markets. And shareholders need to insist on tying executive compensation to climate action progress; otherwise, without said progress, they could reach a point when there’s no future business to report on.
We all must find a way to take climate action now
To the agrifood professional, I must say that we share a unique opportunity to transform the world of tomorrow. Unlike climate solutions for other industries that need to be developed and proven at scale, agriculture holds the key to significant emissions reduction on a global scale through actions that are available to implement right now.
By aligning incentives and distributing them, by providing feedback into the emerging guidance, by partnering with a long-term view in mind, by adopting digital infrastructure and the latest science, we can prevent millions of metric tons of emissions from going into the atmosphere. By cutting the overuse of fertilizers and sharing the risks with the producers, we can immediately and permanently cut a large portion of agricultural emissions. To sum up in two key action items:
1. Reality-check (and likely increase) our corporate climate ambitions
2. Take action by investing in climate solutions that exist today
“The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have the facts and solutions. All we have to do is wake up and change.”
-Greta Thunberg, Environmental Activist
Yes, we do hear excuses. As much as government policy, protocols and standards are helping, the fact that in some ways they are “in flux” or undefined is giving many pause. Others want to wait for a definitive end to the academic debate about soil carbon permanence. But realistically, these are pauses we can’t afford.
There are only seven harvests left until 2030; even if we look toward a future where more permanent and scalable carbon sequestration solutions are available, we still need to invest in solutions that we know will help food producers adapt in the meantime, mitigating the climate impact to agricultural land before it’s too late to undo the damage. Any action we take now will help reduce the cost that we, and future generations, will have to pay in the decades to come.