Corporate-smart greenwash: the Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture

Cacao seedlings in the nursery - raised in biochar-enriched soil. Photo: Carbon Gold.

Cacao seedlings in the nursery - raised in biochar-enriched soil. Photo: Carbon Gold.

What we do want: organic cacao seedlings in the nursery in Belize - raised in biochar-enriched soil. Photo: Carbon Gold.

The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture made its high-profile launch at the New York Climate Summit. But for a huge coalition of civil society organizations, it's a 'greenwash' initiative designed to promote intensive profit-driven industrial agriculture at the expense of small farmers, environment, and the real solutions.
By endorsing the activities of the planet's worst climate offenders in agribusiness and industrial agriculture, the Alliance will undermine the very objectives that it claims to aim for.

We, the undersigned civil society organisations, hereby manifest our rejection of the proposed Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture launched at the UN Secretary-General's Climate Change Leaders' Summit.

This proposed alliance is a deceptive and deeply contradictory initiative.

Food producers and providers - farmers, fisherfolk, and pastoralists - together with our food systems, are on the front lines of climate change.

We know that urgent action must be taken to cool the planet, to help farming systems - and particularly small-scale farmers - adapt to a changing climate, and to revive and reclaim the agroecological systems on which future sustainable food production depends.

The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, however, will not deliver the solutions that we so urgently need. Instead, 'climate-smart' agriculture provides a dangerous platform for corporations to implement the very activities we oppose.

Our concerns have been ignored

By endorsing the activities of the planet's worst climate offenders in agribusiness and industrial agriculture, the Alliance will undermine the very objectives that it claims to aim for.

Some organizations have constructively engaged in good faith for several months with the Alliance to express serious concerns through a number of different routes - including a sign-on letter signed by over 80 organisations, participation in the Friends of the Alliance conference calls, and attending a meeting of the Alliance in the Hague in July 2014.

But the concerns have been ignored. Instead, the Alliance is clearly being structured to serve big business interests, not to address the climate crisis.

We reject 'climate-smart' agriculture and the Global Alliance for a number of reasons already articulated in previous efforts to interface with the promoters, including:

1. No environmental or social criteria

The final framework of the Alliance does not contain any criteria or definitions for what can - or cannot - be considered 'climate-smart agriculture'.

Industrial approaches that increase greenhouse gas emissions and farmers' vulnerability by driving deforestation, using genetically modified (GM) seeds, increasing synthetic fertiliser use or intensifying industrial livestock production, are all apparently welcome to use the 'climate-smart' label to promote their practices as solutions to climate change.

2. Carbon trading

The originators of 'climate-smart' agriculture - the FAO and the World Bank - have a vision that 'climate-smart' projects will be funded in part by carbon offset schemes.

Many of our groups question the environmental and social integrity of carbon offsetting. Carbon sequestration in soils is not permanent and is easily reversible, and should be especially excluded from schemes to offset emissions.

By endorsing the activities of the planet's worst climate offenders in agribusiness and industrial agriculture, the Alliance will undermine the very objectives that it claims to aim for.

Carbon offset schemes in agriculture will create one more driver of land dispossession of smallholder farmers, particularly in the Global South, and unfairly place the burden of mitigation on those who are most vulnerable to, but have least contributed to, the climate crisis.

3. A new space for promoting agribusiness and industrial agriculture

Companies with activities resulting in dire social impacts on farmers and communities, such as those driving land grabbing or promoting GM seeds, already claim that they are 'climate-smart'.

Yara (the world's largest fertilizer manufacturer), Syngenta (GM seeds), McDonald's and Walmart are all at the 'climate-smart' table. Climate-smart agriculture will serve as a new promotional space for the planet's worst social and environmental offenders in agriculture.

The proposed Global Alliance on Climate-Smart Agriculture seems to be yet another strategy by powerful players to prop up industrial agriculture, which undermines the basic human right to food. It is nothing new, nothing innovative, and not what we need.

A covert promotion of industrial agriculture

We do urgently need climate action! Unfortunately, the Alliance seriously misses the mark. Real climate solutions are already out there in farmers' fields - based on agroecological practices and the relocalisation of food systems to effectively fight hunger.

Instead of creating one more body for business-as-usual, governments, funding agencies, and international organizations should be taking bold action: committing to shift resources away from climate-damaging practices of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and meat production and towards investment in and commitment to agroecology, food sovereignty, and support to small-scale food producers.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development concluded in 2008 that business-as-usual in agriculture is not an option. Instead, a thorough and radical overhaul of present international and agricultural policies is essential to meet the challenges of the future.

We reject the Global Alliance as one more step by a small percentage of the UN's total membership to promote industrial agriculture against all the evidence of its destructive impacts on people, biodiversity, seed, water, soils, and climate.

It is merely one more attempt to block the real change needed to fix our broken food systems and our broken climate - change which instead must be based on food sovereignty and agroecological approaches for agriculture and food production and the effective reduction of greenhouse gases.



Source: Climate Smart Ag Concerns. This article is a minimally edited version of the original letter. Signatories are listed below:

International Organisations & Farmers' Movements

ActionAid International
Centro de Estudios Internacionales y de Agricultura Internacional (CERAI)
Coalition pour la Protection du Patrimoine Genetique African (COPAGEN)
Corporate Europe Observatory
Earth in Brackets
Foro Rural Mundial (FRM)
Friends of the Earth International
IBON International
International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
International-Lawyers.Org (INTLawyers)
LDC Watch
Mesa de Coordinación Latinoamericana de Comercio Justo
Send a Cow
South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)
South Asia Peasants Coalition
Third World Network

National Organisations & Farmers' Movements

Abalimi Bezekhaya (Farmers of Hope), South Africa
ACRA-CCS Foundation, Italy
Action Contre la Faim, France
Africa Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN), Brussels
Agrosolidaria Federacion el Tambo Cauca, Colombia
Alliance International sur les OMD (AIOMD), Niger
All Nepal Peasants Federation (ANPFa), Nepal
Antenne Nationale du Niger (AAIOMD-Niger)
Asemblea Nacional Ambiental (ANA), República Dominicana
Asociacion de Prosumidores Agroecologicos "Agrosolidaria Seccional Viani" Colombia
Asociacion Nacional de Produtores Ecologistas del Peru (ANPE)
Asociacion Viva Amazonica de San Martin, Peru
Association Malienne pour la Sécurité et la Souverainté Alimentaires (AMASSA)
Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)
Beyond Copenhagen, India
Biofuelwatch, UK
Biowatch South Africa
Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Bolivia
Campaign for Climate Justice Nepal (CCJN)
Carbon Market Watch, Belgium
CCFD-Terre Solidaire, France
Centre for community economics and development consultants society (CECOEDECON), India
Cecosesola, Barquisimeto, Venezuela
Centre d'Actions et de Réalisations Internationales (CARI), France
Centre for Learning on Sustainable Agriculture (ILEIA), the Netherlands
Community Development Association (CDA), Bangladesh
Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), South Sudan
EcoFrut, Colombia
EcoNexus, UK
Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh (EquityBD).
Family Farmers' Association, UK
Farm & Garden Trust, South Africa
Farms Not Factories, UK
Féderation des Eglises Evangéliques des Frères (FEEF), the Central African Republic
Federacion Nacional de Cooperativas Agropecuarias y Agroindustriales de Nicaragua (FENACOOP)
Find Your Feet, UK
Food First Information and Action Network (FIAN) Nepal
Forum des Femmes Africaines pour l'Education (FAWECOM), Comoros
Friends of Siberian Forests, Russia
Friends of the Earth - England, Wales & Northern Ireland
Friends of the Earth - Latvia
Fundación Caminos de Indentidad (FUCAI) Colombia
Fundación Lonxanet para la Pesca Sostenible, Spain
Fundación Solidaridad, Bolivia
Harvest of Hope, South Africa
Gramya Resource Centre for Women, India
Groupe d'Action de Paix et de Formation pour la Transformation (GAPAFOT), Central African Republic
Human Rights (HR) Alliance, Nepal
Human Rights Organisation of Bhutan (HUROB)
INHURED International, Nepal
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), USA
Instituto de Cultura Popular, Argentina
Jagaran Nepal
Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JSAPMDD), Philippines
Karnataka State Red Gram Growers Association, India
Labour, Health and Human Rights Development Centre, Nigeria
L'Association des Jeunes Filles Pour la Promotion de l'Espace Francophone (Membre du CNOSCG), Republic of Guinea
MADGE Australia
MASIPAG, Philippines
National Civic Forum, Sudan
National Federation of Youth Organisations in Bangladesh
National Network on Right to Food, Nepal (RtFN)
Organización Casa de Semillas Criollas Atenas, Costa Rica
Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum (PFF), Pakistan
Partners for the Land & Agricultural Needs of Traditional Peoples (PLANT), USA
People's Alliance of Central-East India (PACE-India)
PHE Ethiopia Consortium
Plateforme Haïtienne de Plaidoyer pour un Développement Alternatif (PAPDA), Haïti
Plateforme pour le Commerce Equitable, France
Public Advocacy Initiatives for Rights and Values in India (PAIRVI)
Red Ecologista Autónoma de la Cuenca de México
Red Nicaraguense de Comercio Comunitario (RENICC)
Red Peruana de Comercio Justo y Consumo Ético, Perú
Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN)
SADF ONG, Democratic Republic of Congo
Sanayee Development Organisation, Afghanistan
Secours Catholique (Caritas), France
SOCDA (Somali Organization for Community Development Activities)
Sudan Peace and Education Development Program (SPEDP), South Sudan
Texas Drought Project, USA
Unión Nacional de Agricultores y Ganaderos de Nicaragua (UNAG)
Unión LatinoAmerica de Technicos Rurales y Agrarios, Argentina
UK Food Group, UK
Vicaria del Sur, Diócesis de Florencia, Colombia
Voluntary Action for the fight against climate change and the adverse effects of Sulfur Diesel, (AVOCHACLISD), Burundi
World Development Movement, UK
Youth Network for MDGs, Madagascar