Planting Seeds - Food & Farming News from CDFA

Secretary Ross looks back at COP28

By CDFA Secretary Karen Ross

Secretary Ross at COP28 sessions in Dubai and at bottom right, with CDFA Deputy Secretary for Climate and Working Lands Virginia Jameson

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend COP28 –the UN’s annual conference on climate change — last week in Dubai.

It was my third COP, and I noticed that the conversations with our partners on collaboration seemed deeper and more meaningful this time around, like we are building on previous steps. We do have a shared sense of urgency to address climate change. 

The continued leadership by the State of California in partnership with dairy families to reduce livestock methane emissions was a focus of three different panel discussions for me, and I was pleased to be able to discuss our progress. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), methane emissions from livestock must fall 25 percent by 2030 (compared to 2020) to stay on course for the Paris Climate Agreement goal to limit global warming this century to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

However, reducing livestock methane emissions is a challenge for some of our international partners, which is understandable when you consider how many millions of people are dependent upon livestock for their families‘ nutritional needs and livelihoods.  Pasture-based grazing and herdsmen in arid regions utilize land where poor soils do not support crop production. These nations feel they are being asked to choose between food security and their local economies, or livestock methane reductions. The entire discussion underscores the critical need for investment to support farmers and ranchers in making transitions in their practices. 

Another key topic in Dubai was a need for investment in healthy soils, and an increase in the number of entities engaged in efforts to scale up soil health practices for climate mitigation as well as long-term productivity, food security and other co-benefits like biodiversity, water holding capacity, drought resiliency, and nutrient cycling. People are excited about the possibilities!  A big topic for discussion was some promising, potentially low-cost and easy to use tools for measuring and monitoring progress in healthy soils development.  

One key advancement in the ongoing international effort is the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM), a joint initiative by the United States and the United Arab Emirates seeking to address climate change and global hunger by uniting participants to significantly increase support for climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation. There is significant buy-in from other partners — pledges of $17 billion are now at-hand following an additional $8 billion in commitments in Dubai, from both government and non-government parties.

Agriculture has always been a building block for emerging economies and is vital for life. It is fundamental to attaining the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 2:  “End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”  But agriculture also helps attain a number of other development goals, including ending poverty; ensuring healthy lives and well-being; ensuring sustainable water management; taking action to combat climate change; promoting sustainable land use; and the protection of biodiversity.   

It is an honor and a privilege to represent the great state of California, which is well-known for its high-quality, vibrant food production. And it’s gratifying to hear the respect and admiration so many have for our state’s public policies and investments in addressing climate change, with significant incentive funding in climate-smart agriculture.

Most of all, it is humbling to hear the challenges of other countries, sub-national governments, and non-government parties as they work to address climate change, poverty and hunger. It is a reminder of how fragile our world is and how the only way forward is to work together and never give up. 

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