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Acting Locally, Thinking Globally: Young Farmers Updates from COP26

Greetings from Scotland!

This is Vanessa Garcia Polanco, Federal Policy Director at Young Farmers. I am currently attending COP26, or the Conference of the Parties, in Glasgow. Since 1992, all countries have met under the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to respond to the climate crisis. This year is the 26th iteration, postponed a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and it is being hosted by the UK in Glasgow. As COP26 begins, I want to provide a recap of the work we are doing as a coalition to advance and advocate for climate policy that equips young and BIPOC farmers with the resources they need to build climate resilience.  

In 2019, we issued our climate statement, asserting that we need climate policy that acknowledges the exceptional climate leadership capability of our young farmers. In 2020, farmers like you voted decidedly to make climate action our top federal policy priority in our first farmer-driven, equity-centered federal policy-setting process. This year, driven by climate crises on our farms across the country, we have been hard at work on climate policy, endorsing several climate action policies like the Agriculture Resilience Act and applauding the Biden Harris Administration’s prioritization of racial equity and climate action. In April, we submitted comments to the USDA calling for the legislative and administrative actions needed to provide resources to the young and BIPOC farmers who are and will combat climate change and build resiliency on their farms across the country. 

We have heard from our farmers from across the country about how their chapters are organizing to leverage resources for climate action, as well as about the psychological effects of climate anxiety and the very tangible impacts of climate chaos. We’ve also heard about the hope young farmers have that their priorities and vision of climate action will soon become a reality. Recently, the USDA released its Action Plan For Climate Adaptation And Resilience. We commend this necessary step that sets the tone for more proactive investments in climate action at the department, but administrative goals cannot be met without additional funding from Congress. 

Last week, Congress shared language from the proposed budget reconciliation bill that includes some of the Build Back Better priorities that the Biden-Harris administration has been championing. If passed, this package would provide groundbreaking investments to help farmers and ranchers increase their conservation practices and play a central role in our national response to the climate crisis. That matters if we must act locally, think globally, and stand in global solidarity for climate action for farmers around the globe. 

These annual COP meetings have delivered triumphs for climate action in the past, such as the Paris agreement in 2015:

Under the landmark Paris agreement signed in 2015, nations committed to holding global temperature rises to “well below” 2C above pre-industrial levels, while “pursuing efforts” to limit heating to 1.5C. Those goals are legally binding and enshrined in the treaty.

However, to meet those goals, countries also agreed on non-binding national targets to cut – or in the case of developing countries, to curb the growth of – greenhouse gas emissions in the near term, by 2030 in most cases.

Those national targets – known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs – were inadequate to hold the world within the Paris temperature targets. If fulfilled, they would result in 3C or more of warming, which would be disastrous.

Everyone knew at Paris that the NDCs were inadequate, so the French built into the accord a “ratchet mechanism” by which countries would have to return to the table every five years with fresh commitments. Those five years were up on 31 December 2020, but the pandemic prevented many countries from coming together. (The Guardian)

Now, under Biden-Harris leadership, the United States has an opportunity to commit to even bolder NDCs for climate action, setting the tone to catalyze investments from other countries. 

This week we have the opportunity to invest boldly at home, so we are urging Congress to pass a historic Budget Reconciliation Package that will allow us to Build Back Better, acting locally to take climate action while being in solidarity and leadership with young farmers around the world.  

Take action today!
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