The emissions reduction potential of manure was the decidedly…earthy, if “unglamourous” focus of a pre-conference workshop attached to United Nations climate negotiations in Madrid, according to ECO, the daily conference newsletter produced by Climate Action Network-International.
Held under the auspices of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), the session spotlighted the critical necessity of making a rapid, comprehensive global shift towards natural soil amendments like manure, and away from energy- and emissions-intensive, soil-destroying chemical fertilizers.
As explained on the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization website, the KJWA was a landmark agreement, concluded at COP 23 in 2017, that officially acknowledged the centrality of the agriculture sector in both adapting to and mitigating climate change. It’s a framework for countries to work together to ensure that present and future agricultural development leads to lower emissions while increasing food security. Countries are to collaborate in areas like soil health, water management, livestock, food security, and socio-economic impacts of climate change on agriculture.
“Big Ag has had its day,” ECO writes, citing the IPCC Special Report on Climate Change and Land released in August. “It is squeezing profits from farmers, driving deforestation, eroding global crop diversity, weakening soils, undermining adaptation, and driving climate change. It’s time for agroecology to take root in our food systems and to start thinking long-term.”
Such long-term thinking will involve combining modern science and ancestral practices, enabling farm producers to “move away from chemical fertilizers—now—and go all-in with agroecological approaches which use nature to naturally build up and fertilize soils using techniques such as composting, mulching, leguminous nitrogen-fixing crops, and –of course –manure,” ECO says.
So while the workshop might have seemed peculiar, and decidedly “unglamourous” to the average “urbanite” wonk, it was still quite literally “an opportunity to address the planet’s climate, agriculture, and social crises from the ground up”.
The UN climate secretariat signposted the manure workshop as the fourth of six to be held through November 2020, when COP 26 convenes in Glasgow. Past topics included soil carbon, health, and fertility; broad approaches to climate change adaptation and resilience; and a process-oriented approach to delivering on the outcomes of the entire workshop series.