Carbon trading has totally failed to address the real causes of the climate crisis. It was never meant to do so. Rather than reducing carbon emissions at their source, it has created a lucrative market for polluters and speculators to buy and sell carbon credits while continuing to pollute. Now the pressure is increasing to treat farmland as a major carbon sink which can be claimed as yet another counterbalance to industrial emissions. The governments of the US and Australia, the World Bank and the corporate sector have long argued for this, and for the creation of new carbon markets where they can purchase land-based offsets in developing countries. Agribusiness is well positioned to profit from these, and some developing country governments hope that offering their forests, grasslands and farmland to polluters in the North could earn them revenue.
Agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, but Henk Hobbelink of GRAIN points out that: “It is the industrial food system – with its heavy use of chemical inputs, the soil erosion and deforestation that accompanies monoculture plantation farming, and the ever-growing drive to supply far away export markets – which is the main culprit behind the climate crisis. Rather than promoting this with carbon markets, the world’s leaders should support peasant farming and agroecology as the solution.” GRAIN’s research has shown that a sustained focus on peasant-based agroecological practices oriented toward restoring organic matter to soils could capture 24-30% of the current global annual greenhouse gas emissions.
A week after the climate negotiators have flown home from Warsaw, most likely without having agreed to any meaningful action on the climate crisis, the World Bank and the governments of the Netherlands and South Africa will convene an international conference in Johannesburg to promote ”climate smart agriculture”, and set up a new alliance to achieve it.