When it comes to the beef industry and climate, mainstream headlines often paint the two as going in separate directions.

The Canadian agriculture sector can feel attacked by policies and messaging, and as Fawn Jackson, director of policy and international affairs at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA), explains from Glasgow, Scotland at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), agriculture around the globe feels this way.

Jackson recently sat on a panel at COP26 alongside Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) UK, and Elizabeth Nsimadala, president of the Pan African Farmers Organisation (PAFO) to discuss how agriculture is going to be a solution in the fight against climate change.

Although there are concerns with some of the rhetoric surrounding climate change, Jackson says there are also some exciting conversations happening, too.

“There was a new study that came out here not too long ago by Nature United that completely recognizes that we have the solution, and it’s already here. We don’t need new work, we don’t need new information, we just have to go out and implement them. But to be able to implement them, of course, we need financing that would go along with that,” says Jackson. “I think we heard that at COP26 that there’s a lot of financing coming, and so I think it’s contingent on agriculture to make sure we have a strategy and partners — such as conservation organizations — to be able to go out and deliver the solutions that we all need.”

Check out the full conversation between Jackson and RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney, below, story continues after player:

A term we’ve been hearing a lot lately is ‘nature-based solutions.’ From the beef perspective, Jackson says this can mean things such as grazing management, re-planting of native grasslands, crop rotations, planting of shelterbelts, and more. These options would increase carbon storage, and increase sequestration.

Canada currently has one of the lowest greenhouse gas footprints per kilogram of beef produced, and about half of the world average, says Jackson. The goal is to get the footprint even lower.

“We have a goal by 2030 to further reduce our greenhouse gas intensity by 33 per cent. We would also like to sequester an addition 3.4 million tonnes of carbon every year. We need to safeguard the 1.5 billion stored on lands managed with beef cattle. And then also, a really big part of our food system is reducing food waste and loss, so we have a goal of reducing that by 5o per cent by 2030.”

The importance of some of the research can’t be forgotten either, says Jackson, as these new technologies can be used to reach the targets, such as feed additives that reduce methane or greenhouse gas emissions. The key will be ensuring those technologies are economically viable to producers, so they can really utilize them in the future.

There certainly are some worries when it comes to the climate discussions, and the top concern for Jackson? Not being a part of these conversations in the first place. We can’t defend ourselves if we’re not there, she says.

“I continue to be worried that agriculture sometimes doesn’t get included in the conversations right from the get-go. So sometimes that could mean that there is a bit more of a journey to get to where we need to go, because we get brought in perhaps later than I think is appropriate. So how do we make sure we are there right from the start?” she questions. “I do worry about this sort of smoke and mirrors, do the one action and you’ll save the world, and ta da you’re a climate hero. The food system is so much more complex than that.”

 

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