The formal signing of the Paris Agreement last week by 175 nations confirmed the commitment of the global community to implement large-scale climate change solutions. An unprecedented number of companies have also made groundbreaking commitments to reduce emissions and improve the resilience of their operations and communities.

To build on this great momentum, the private sector needs to find new ways to collaborate and drive change at a very large scale, especially in sectors such as agriculture, which will require action across literally thousands of farms and business operations in the United States alone.

In the past 18 months, BSR has engaged in a wide range of actions with diverse partners to identify opportunities for climate action in U.S. agriculture. We have partnered with leading food companies, including General Mills, to demonstrate the viability of setting science-based emissions-reductions targets inclusive of their agricultural supply chains. In partnership with our friends at Field to Market, we convened leading growers, food companies, and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at COP21 to discuss how to scale up the most promising climate solutions. We have also engaged funders and thought leaders to identify opportunities for emissions reductions, and we have mapped the landscape of collaborative efforts focused on climate-smart agriculture in the United States.

Our work has taught us that large-scale climate action in U.S. agriculture will demand nothing less than a massive, coordinated approach of organizations able to address different regions, commodities, and layers of the value chain. Specifically, we see at least three potential approaches that could amplify and accelerate our collective efforts:

  • Join forces to seize the best opportunities for impact: Companies and experts need to bring together their disparate programs and resources, working together on the greatest opportunities for scale and impact. This might include the development of a clearinghouse of best practices, as well as creating new ways to mobilize existing farm guidance and training (extension agents, ag-service providers, etc.).
  • Mobilize financial services, technology, and utilities industries: Reducing emissions in agriculture will require financial services companies to provide needed capital while meeting their low-carbon lending goals, the tech sector to accelerate ag-tech innovation, and utilities that can help to grow the biomass industry. There is a clear and urgent need to engage these sectors to ensure the greatest impact.
  • Advocate for supportive policies: Policy advocacy is certainly not the easiest terrain to navigate in the United States. Nonetheless, the Farm Bill and other agricultural policies exert a tremendous influence on the incentives shaping U.S. agriculture, and there exists a clear opportunity to convene business and civil society to jointly advocate for policies that incentivize action at scale.

BSR is exploring these ideas with our members and other stakeholders to determine the best pathways forward. If you are interested in engaging with us, join us May 5-6 at the Climate Action Summit in Washington, D.C.. Co-organized by the Global Environment Facility, WBCSD, and We Mean Business, the summit will feature a workstream on aligning and strengthening efforts to scale up climate-smart land use. BSR will be there to share more about our work and to hear your ideas. Please contact me for more information. You can also fill out our survey to share your perspectives on these ideas and others that could help accelerate our progress.

There is no shortage of expertise, commitment, or collaborative activity in the field of climate-smart agriculture. To meet the moment of the signing of the Paris Agreement, and accelerate emissions reductions in U.S. agriculture, we need to bring these efforts together, turning single actions into a greater, climate-smart movement.