31 January 2018

Sustainable agriculture needs financing to unlock potential

Agriculture stands at a crossroads between its current contributions to greenhouse gas emissions and the number of mouths it needs to feed in the developing world.

The answer to the former is estimated to be one quarter of total emissions; meanwhile, hunger is impacting upwards of 800 million people worldwide.

However, we are able to square the circle by adopting new agricultural methods which are smart, sustainable, and resilient to the impacts of climate change.

At the recent launch of its new Kickstart Food campaign to promote sustainability, the CEO of Rabobank explained that the food industry and financial institutions need to join forces to protect the future of the sector and the planet.

“It is clear that a different way of agricultural practices is needed that includes incentives and provisions to protect forest ecosystems and restore degraded lands  if we are to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as well as keep global temperature rises to below 2˚C as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement”, said Wiebe Draijer.

“Our aim is to substantially increase the quality of existing arable land while protecting biodiversity and reducing climate change worldwide”, he added.

Mr. Draijer was speaking as the Dutch bank announced $1 billion of new funding to finance sustainable land use. Rabobank is forming a coalition, along with UN Environment and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), to urgently advance the use of climate-smart agriculture methods.

The Kickstart Food initiative will focus on the key areas of earth, waste, stability and nutrition in its plan to put the sector on a long-term, sustainable path.

Part of the new billion-dollar funding will go towards grants to allow the bank’s clients to protect forests and land restoration. It is also issuing sustainability certificates to ensure parties adhere to strict new provisions to reduce waste and improve soil management, among others.

Support has been strong from current coalition partners. Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, has spoken about the need for the entire finance industry to change their agricultural lending, “away from deforestation and towards integrated landscapes”. What’s more, he emphasised that using land in a sustainable, responsible way is “fundamentally about sound investments and good business”.

His sentiments were echoed by Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the WBCSD, who also spoke at the launch of the funding late last year.

“This is just the beginning”, he said.

“We need more initiatives that go beyond just talking about the issues at hand…Major global players in primary production, the food industry and financial institutions (need) to join this initiative”.


Image Credit: Rowan Heuvel

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