COP27: Shorter timelines are key to long-term incremental change

Hanne Søndergaard of Arla Foods identifies three necessary steps to take urgent short-term climate action

COP27 marked the first time that agriculture was firmly on the agenda at a UN climate summit. Agriculture is a key cog in the global food system, and this year we saw world leaders and policymakers come together to discuss their long-term goals.

While the 2030 and 2050 goals are important, they are far off. Those timelines were a major concern among activists in the run-up to this year’s summit, raising questions about the creeping sluggishness of action needed to deliver on the pledges.

We are now seeing significant changes in agricultural organizations that are taking the time to map out clearer paths and short-term solutions that will help them achieve their longer-term goals. A prime example is the Global Dairy Platforms (GDP) Pathways to Dairy Net Zero initiative, a multi-stakeholder initiative to accelerate climate action across the dairy sector. The focus of COP27 this year was similar: holding organizations accountable for their commitments and demanding to see incremental but impactful change.

COP27 has put significant pressure on both organizations and governments to take immediate action. We agree that we and the world around us simply cannot afford to wait. Here’s how I think we can do it:


1. Roadmaps can lead us to measurable success

Stakeholders are increasing pressure on the private sector to expand emission reduction strategies. COP27 is pushing the agricultural industry to think and, in many cases, work differently. Developing a clear roadmap is a tactic that helps close the gaps between the problem and the end goal. Climate impacts in agriculture are complex and need to be broken down. A roadmap can show exactly what steps need to be taken to achieve climate change goals, minimize the effects of the climate crisis and reap business benefits.

As part of Arla’s Roadmap to Reduce Farm Emissions (Volume 3) by 30 per cent, we have been driven to critically break down these targets and demonstrate progress now. This led us to recently launch the Incentive Model in collaboration with our farmers. The new business strategy rewards farmers for minimizing emissions, including feed, fertilizer efficiency, biogas use, biodiversity and renewable agriculture. In turn, livestock farmers can improve each section of work and earn an additional three euro cents per kilogram of milk.

As a dairy cooperative, we work hand in hand with our farmers and therefore play a significant role in agriculture. Our farmers are key agents in bringing about impactful change. They have the power at their fingertips to work with environmental awareness, so by combining profit and climate positivity, can we really bring about urgent change and show stakeholders our step-by-step way to do it.

That’s why I was so happy to see so many direct agents of change like farmers at the COP, not just those who still matter, politicians and opinion makers. It’s really starting to feel like together we can bring about urgent change.


2. Industry and countries join forces for the good of all

COP27 calls for urgent action and in turn encourages politicians and companies to come together and collaborate. Both sides have the same goal and want the same progress, so instead of stepping up their own agendas, both should work together to achieve effective impact.

The Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation – FAST initiative is an excellent example of a multi-stakeholder partnership that acts as an accelerator to transform food systems to fight for people and the planet. The program is designed to strengthen the relationship between corporate and country initiatives to immediately stimulate effective collaborative action. The desired goal is to implement concrete actions that will lead to rapid transformations in agriculture by 2030 to support the 1.5 degree pathway.

On the other hand, the Green Climate Fund recently approved funding for Pathways to Dairy Net Zero, which allows developing countries to work together with organizations such as GDP, GCF and FAO to step up the urgent need for climate change that COP27 so strongly calls for. I really see the Green Climate Fund as a catalyst for such a transformation.

In order to work in synergy, companies and countries must commit to working together to achieve common climate goals. Commitment alone is no longer enough.


3. Setting shorter and more precise deadlines

COP27 reaffirmed the urgent need to jointly achieve climate goals. Globally, the long-term goal is simple. It is to eliminate the impact of emissions by 2050. This is the main goal. This is a huge goal that requires significant change, requiring time, research, green investment, innovation and technological progress. By breaking down this major commitment into short-term doable timelines and smarter timelines, we can begin to make further progress.

For years, behavioral psychologists have suggested that short-term goals can serve as stepping stones to greater success (CIPD). Separating the SDGs and looking at them individually creates a significant opportunity for the private sector to demonstrate the central role it plays in corporate sustainability and consumer prosperity.

At a time when climate risks are high, there is still reason for optimism, and it is short-term and more strategic events like these that will help businesses move from promise and promise to progress and performance.


Hanne Søndergaard is Executive Vice President Agriculture, Sustainability and Communications at Arla Foods.

https://www.businessgreen.com/opinion/4060490/cop27-shorter-deadlines-key-long-term-incremental-change COP27: Shorter timelines are key to long-term incremental change

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