August 2021 ESMC Newsletter
ESMC Executive Director Update
By Debbie Reed
Climate Change: Greater Certainty, Greater Urgency
This month, a global body of scientists who provide scientific advice to the United Nations (UN), including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), provided their strongest statement yet about climate change, confirming that extreme weather events being seen around the globe – including across the US – can be attributed to man-made climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as it is known, published this report on August 9: “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis”.
Natural Disasters Less Natural, More Devastating
The IPCC also indicated that what we generally refer to as “natural disasters” – e.g., wildfires, heat waves, droughts, flooding – are increasingly man-made. Humanity has played a substantial role in making many of them more extreme. The financial, human, and ecological costs of these fires and other extreme weather are mounting. In the US, the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho indicated this week that 93 large and active fires in the US have burned 2.5M acres. Only one of those fires is considered contained. Since January 1 of this year, a total of 4.6M acres have burned from wildfires. High temperatures, droughts, and extreme weather have contributed to the fires – impacts we are all feeling, and unfortunately, will continue to experience until we adequately address climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in January of this year, confirmed that 2020 was a historic year for disasters and weather extremes, pointing to 22 events in 2020 that caused $95B in damages. Most of these events occurred in central and southern US, and each resulted in at least $1B in damages. Fires in CA, OR, and WA, and an extreme western/Central US drought were also reported, with NOAA stating that the costs were the “fourth-highest inflation-adjusted annual costs total since 1980, and more than double the 41-year average of $45.7B.”
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in January indicated that 2020 was one of the three warmest years on record, “which is destroying lives and livelihoods across our planet,” commented UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a release about that record.
All Hands, Tools, Technologies and Sectors On Deck
The UN scientists reiterated in this month’s report that we no longer have the luxury to pick and choose which tools, technologies and methods we invest in to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increase GHG removals – but we must utilize all means at our disposal to address these increasingly costly and dangerous impacts, and we must address it across all sectors. Every country, every sector, every corporation – we must contribute as much as possible to help address this crisis. Countries must heavily invest in the technologies and means to enable all public and private sector actors to combat warming – or continue to pay for the increasing damages.
But it is not all doom and gloom to report. The good news is that we can avert further warming and increased weather extremes if we go all in. The private sector continues to heavily invest in and seek ways to mitigate global warming, with great urgency. The urgency of the IPCC report, and of governments, corporations, and civil society preparing to meet in Glasgow, Scotland for the next UNFCCC conference (“COP 26”, for the 26th annual Conference of the Parties to the Convention) to discuss global efforts to combat climate change are highly visible and hopefully cause the collective to recognize that every action is essential, and that now is the time to double-down, renew commitments, and meet them.
Agriculture’s Role in Combatting Climate Change
Agriculture’s role as a sector has gained increasing attention and focus as the UN scientists and others have confirmed that agricultural solutions are one important avenue for investments. Also, the system changes that increase soil carbon (carbon ‘removals’ in market parlance) and reduce GHG emissions from agriculture tend to make the sector more resilient to climate disruptions, though continued weather extremes are cause for concern. No amount of system change will help all producers overcome the 22-year megadrought being experienced in the West, including in CA’s Central Valley and in the Colorado River basin, where the Bureau of Reclamation (part of the US Department of Interior) declared the first-ever water shortage for the Colorado River on August 16. Producers across the region are facing water scarcity that is increasingly resulting in fallowed lands; cities and communities face the same scarcity, as does the natural world.
We must collectively and urgently address these dangerous weather impacts while we continue to seek to mitigate impacts from the agricultural sector itself – but it is a balancing act. Within ESMC, we are working with our members to address what these new extreme impacts and the new landscape look like not only to our program and operations, but to corporates investing heavily in reducing their agricultural supply chain impacts, and to producers on the ground in the line of fire, drought, and other “natural” disasters whose extremes are increasing due to humanity’s impacts.
We at ESMC, including our members, feel the shared sense of urgency, and are collectively seeking to make impact at scale – impact that can help remove carbon from the atmosphere and reduce continued GHG emissions. As we prepare for a 2022 market program launch, we will continue to monitor not just global activities such as the UNFCCC COP26, but also the direct impacts producers face on the ground, and the challenges our corporate partners have in reporting the annual impacts of their investments and interventions in their agricultural supply chains.
Collaborative and leveraged investments and partnerships will take us further, faster, and we remain grateful for the partnership with our members in facing the greatest crisis of our time. Ensuring we can equitably support the livelihoods of farmers and ranchers whose systems changes can contribute to global warming mitigation remains the key underpinning of our program. But as the saying goes, it takes a village. A global village, in this case.
ESMC Welcomes Alana Pacheco, ESMC/ESMRC Membership Manager
ESMC is pleased to welcome Alana Pacheco as our Membership Manager. Alana will lead ESMC’s work to ensure we are connecting to and meeting the needs of our members on an ongoing basis, and will also work to ensure member management and communications and engagement processes are streamlined and effective. Prior to working at ESMC, Alana managed programs at a non-profit business accelerator that supported ag and food start-ups working to build a more resilient food system. She additionally ran an annual conference that highlighted current issues in ag/food and promising start-ups in the space. Alana worked on a regenerative livestock operation in Connecticut to learn about alternatives to industrial operations and understand how rotational grazing can help build soil health. She has an MSc in Environmental Protection & Management from The University of Edinburgh and holds a B.A. in Economic & Social History from Barnard College.
Join Our Team! ESMC Has an Opening for a Postdoctoral Researcher/Research Scientist
ESMC and ESMRC, the research arm of ESMC, have a position open for a Postdoctoral Researcher/Research Scientist posted on ESMC’s website. The position will 1) provide consistent and expert direction and support for Working Group members engaged in investing and implementing improved tools and approaches to quantifying soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector; 2) assist in identifying priority soil science-oriented research needs; and 3) implement pilot project research. Interested applicants should send a cover letter, along with salary requirements, available start dates, and a resume to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your name in the title of all files (ex. Jane Doe cover letter). All positions will remain posted until filled.
ESMC’s Federal and State Policy Engagement Updates
The ESMC Policy Committee met three times in August to provide updates on engagement with Capitol Hill and the Biden administration and to discuss policy developments related to the infrastructure package, reconciliation bill, and the Growing Climate Solutions Act, among other legislation. ESMC held staff-level meetings with both House and Senate member offices to discuss ESMC’s work and provide insights on how the government can support the development of private voluntary markets. ESMC also finalized plans for a panel discussion with members during the UN Food Systems Summit and Climate Week NYC, both in September (with more details on these discussions to follow).
Look For ESMC At…
2021 Kansas Ag Growth Summit
The 2021 Kansas Ag Growth Summit will take place August 26, 9 am – 2:30 pm CT and will be a celebration of agriculture featuring discussions on common crossover topics and presentations by influential leaders in agriculture. ESMC’s Debbie Reed will participate as a panelist highlighting ESMC’s market program (9:30-10:30 am CT). For more information and registration, click here.
Innovating Today for the Food System of Tomorrow, hosted by ADM and Food Navigator
ESMC’s Debbie Reed will participate as a panelist on a September 1 webinar that will explore how producers, NGOs, governments and more are working together to launch new solutions, from advancements in regenerative agriculture to sustainable, plant-based products, that are strengthening the resilience of the global food system and ensuring an abundant future. For more information and registration, click here.
Regenerative Food Systems Investment (RFSI) Forum Panel “Unpacking Carbon Markets”
The RFSI Forum (September 28 – 29) will catalyze conversation, advance education, and drive increased investment in regenerative agriculture and food. ESMC’s Debbie Reed will speak on a panel on September 28 (4:30 – 5:15pm) that will focus on Disrupted Supply Chains and Investing Opportunities. For more information and registration, click here.
ESMC Member News
Regenerative Agriculture: The Next Trend in Food Retailing
Forbes Business Council (August 19)
In 2019, ESMC Founding Circle member General Mills announced it would begin sourcing a portion of its corn, wheat, dairy and sugar from farmers who were engaged in regenerative agriculture practices and committed to advancing the practice of regenerative agriculture on one million acres of land by 2030. In early 2020, Whole Foods announced regenerative agriculture would be the No. 1 food trend and, in spite of the pandemic and the rapid growth of online shopping overshadowing the trend, business interest in the field still spiked by 138%. More recently, ESMC Legacy Partner member PepsiCo announced it was adopting regenerative agriculture practices among 7 million acres of its farmland. Read the full article highlighting trends in regenerative agriculture among food retailers.
McDonald’s 2020-2021 Purpose and Impact Reporting Suite
On August 18, ESMC Legacy Partner member McDonald’s released their Purpose and Impact Reporting Suite which demonstrates progress across a range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) priorities over the past year. Read the full suite of actions here; specific agricultural goals and impacts can be found here.
Regrow Raises $17 Million Series A Funding to Scale Carbon Market Monitoring and Verification
Precision Ag (August 17)
ESMC Legacy Partner member Regrow recently announced that it received $17 million in Series A funding, which it is using to speed the development and rollout of its Monitoring, Reporting and Verification (MRV) tool. The system is designed to accurately and transparently reporting environmental outcomes such as carbon sequestration and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, providing historical analyses, scenario planning, and future projections. ESMC’s Debbie Reed is quoted stating that Regrow’s MRV is a critical enabler for developing sustainability programs in agriculture to reduce the carbon footprint of the industry. “A number of leading global food and agriculture companies have launched robust sustainability programs to reduce their supply chain’s carbon outputs and to meet the requirements of investors, consumers and governments. Accurate and transparent monitoring of these outcomes are needed for credibility and integrity.” Read the full article here.
Agronomy Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America Releases Climate Solutions Position Statement
This month, ESMC Legacy Partner members the Agronomy Society of America, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America released a new climate solutions position statement, Advancing Resilient Agriculture: Recommendations to Address Climate Change, which outlines concrete actions policymakers can take right now to help U.S. agriculture mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects. Developed by a Climate Change Task Force, the statement provides recommendations under seven categories: agricultural practices, data, research, food system resilience, communication and outreach, diversity, and collaboration. Read the full statement here.
Other News of Note
Civil Eats (August 24)
A new generation of elected officials is working to benefit disadvantaged farmers and African Americans in their states by serving on agriculture committees, introducing legislation to promote equity in agriculture, and fighting food insecurity. Read the full article here.
The New Market for Carbon Offsets
Institutional Investor (August 16)
Corporations fighting to cut their carbon footprint are increasingly turning to carbon credits, a process that is becoming more navigable as verification and registration tools mature. But behind every effort to deploy voluntary carbon offsets stands two things: an unassailable third-party standard and a registry that tracks the climate mitigating projects. Read the full article here.
The Repercussions of a Changing Climate, in 5 Devastating Charts
Inside Climate News (August 15)
The Sixth Assessment Report released this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is chock full of information on how our climate has changed because of human activity and warnings about the challenging future as our planet warms. Much of this information is conveyed through graphics, which consolidate thousands of pages of information into digestible nuggets of information. IPCC Senior Science Officer Melissa Gomis helped lead the design process of these visualizations, supporting designers to create graphics that are understandable to the average reader. She said graphics can have more of an impact than simple text and are highly shareable in our digital world. Read the full article here.
Carbon Hidden in Soil: Could Chesapeake Bay Restoration Methods Be a Model for Blunting Climate Change?
The Virginian Pilot (August 12)
For decades, farmers around the Chesapeake Bay have worked to limit the pollution going from their land into the water, as part of a program to restore the watershed. But the measures taken to improve water quality have also had unforeseen side benefits for the climate, according to a new analysis from the Chesapeake Conservancy. Nearly half a million tons of carbon dioxide were removed from Virginia’s atmosphere in 2019 through agricultural conservation practices that weren’t even intended for that purpose, the nonprofit found. Read the full article here.
Grazing Cattle Can Reduce Agriculture’s Carbon Footprint
TX A&M AgriLife (August 10)
Ruminant animals like cattle contribute to the maintenance of healthy soils and grasslands, and proper grazing management can reduce the industry’s carbon emissions and overall footprint, according to research published in the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Read the full article here.
Hybrid Rye is Helping Farmers Fight ‘Superweeds’ Without Herbicide
Civil Eats (August 10)
Herbicide-resistant giant ragweed is destroying crops across the Corn Belt. These farms have found a sustainable solution. Read the full article here.
Climate Change Is Hitting Farmers Hard
Scientific American (August 6)
Sweltering temperatures exacerbated by climate change dealt a multibillion-dollar blow to U.S. farmers and the public insurance program that shields them from devastating losses. Those costs threaten to take a toll on the domestic agriculture sector and American taxpayers, who subsidize the federal insurance program that insulates farmers from financial shocks such as plunging crop prices and yield volatility, according to new research in Environmental Research Letters by Stanford University climate scientists. Read the full article here.