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The 2018 Global Action Climate Summit: we can’t solve climate change unless farmers are at the table

A summary of the Global Action Climate Summit by Kate Greenberg, Western Program Director


Rukka Sombolinggi, Secretary General of Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN), an organization of indigenous peoples in Indonesia, speaks to delegates at the Summit on the importance of indigenous-led movements in addressing climate change


On September 12-14, NYFC Land Access Program Director Holly Rippon-Butler, California Organizer Mai Nguyen, and I joined delegates from around the world at California’s Global Climate Action Summit, where thousands of representatives from governments, businesses, and grassroots coalitions gathered to solidify commitments to stem climate change, starting now.

The call was urgent: We must significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

While many speakers made commitments focused on harnessing the power of technology to combat climate change, others reminded the world that land and water, along with the people who draw their lives and livelihoods from them, are foundational to the future—a fact that is not always a given if the people who work and depend on these resources are not in the room.

Read more about the five main themes of the Summit and key challenges here.

Many made land-based commitments to create a climate-safe future. Indigenous Schuar leaders announced an international effort to protect the sacred Amazonian headwaters; coral farmers described their efforts to rapidly re-vegetate the world’s reefs; Jane Goodall and Alec Baldwin reminded us that protecting and restoring forests can deliver a powerful solution to climate change; and outside the Summit, protestors unfurled signs stating the “People’s To-Do List,” calling for indigenous sovereignty and the defense of land, air, and water.

Climate Trailblazers gather during the Summit to share stories of climate solutions from around the world

I had the opportunity to represent NYFC as one of 22 Climate Trailblazers from around the world. My hope in attending was to represent NYFC and all of you, our members; to add to the call for land-based solutions to be front-and-center in climate change decision-making; and to help ensure that those who will implement those solutions (farmers and ranchers) have agency over their future.

The Summit was a gargantuan organizing feat—our hats are off to those who made it happen. Significant commitments were made to help shape a world in which we can not only survive, but in which we will thrive. And yet, there is so much work to do. Agriculture must be seen as a solution to climate change, rather than solely as a contributing factor. Food production and land management strategies that enable a resilient future must be valued, rather than taken for granted.

Find Summit news, including updates on climate commitments, here.

The Forests, Food, and Land day of the Summit, along with the Water Pavilion gathering, brought the focus of the conversation to the fact that food and water are essential resources for survival. The message of these events was that if we are going to succeed in creating a livable future, it must include thinking about how we produce and consume food, how we use our land base, and how we care for our water as part of the solution. Read more about the Climate Land Challenge here.

The California Department of Food and Agriculture hosted a two-day climate-smart agriculture tour that presented some of the ways agriculture can support climate mitigation and resilience, which they hope will be accelerated by participation in the Global Soil Health Challenge. These are critical steps, but the message needs to be carried to decision-makers who are not yet thinking about agriculture as a solution, and those who we will rely on to implement these solutions must play a role in delivering this message.

One thing is clear: we need to seriously amplify the voices of farmers and ranchers who are building health and climate resilience through agriculture, and shine light on the absolute importance of protecting working lands and the people who work them for our future.

Showing up counts. Getting a seat at the table counts. That’s why NYFC was formed—to be sure that farmers and ranchers are a part of these discussions. Together we have the power to show decision-makers how agriculture will help build a future of health, security, and abundance.
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