Representatives from the world’s nations gathered in Paris now seem on track to seal a global climate change agreement by the end of the week. This is despite remaining differences in the latest draft released on Wednesday afternoon, mostly on the respective roles of rich and poor nations and transfers of money and technology to help developing countries tackle global warming.

French foreign affairs minister Laurent Fabius, who chairs the conference, said three-quarters of the points of disagreement identified last weekend had now been removed. Ministers and diplomats have until Friday to conclude negotiations.

“I’m very optimistic we will have a deal,” New Zealand’s climate change minister Tim Groser said on Wednesday, adding that there was no appetite among participants for a “catastrophic” delay.

Representatives from farming organisations and those food-producing countries with formal commitments to tackling climate change, including EU member states, are now pushing for the agreement to encompass agriculture.

This would ensure a level playing field for farmers in countries competing on global commodity markets, such as Ireland: their production could not be displaced to regions that fail to tackle climate change. Farmers in the developing world would also get easier access to funds earmarked for climate action.

“Leaving out agriculture was a terrible mistake in the past”

“One important thing for us is that agricultural productivity has to be part of the deal,” said Evelyn Nguleka, president of the World Farmers Organisation. The WFO is an umbrella group for farmers’ organisations around the world, including the IFA, and it has been monitoring the Paris talks closely.

“Leaving out agriculture was a terrible mistake in the past,” Nguleka said. She called for a binding agreement to reflect the “urgency” of protecting farmers’ livelihoods from changing weather patterns in poorer countries. The alternative, she said, would be mass migration towards developed nations.

Listen to interview with Evelyn Nguleka in our podcast below:

According to Groser, including agriculture in a global climate agreement would provide an incentive for countries relying heavily on the sector, such as Ireland and New Zealand, to look for technological solutions. These could include the low-methane breeding, feeds and vaccines being developed in New Zealand. “Methane produced by livestock inside the rumen of the animal is responsible for 5% of global greenhouse gases. This is a serious issue,” the NZ minister said.

Yet he rejected criticism that countries with large amounts of livestock were seeking special treatment. On Wednesday, Paul Price of the environment conservation group An Taisce described the Irish negotiating position as “meagre penny-pinching and self-centred ‘climate action = hands off agriculture’.”

Danone sets climate targets

Groser countered: “By pretending that there are no special issues in agriculture … what happened? Nothing.” Instead, those countries that had other industries when emissions were easier to cut focused their efforts away from agriculture, he added.

The common ground between all positions is that farmers worldwide are facing massive efforts to reduce their emissions in the coming years – if not from a binding Paris agreement, then from processors eager to satisfy increasingly climate-conscious customers.

Last weekend, Danone’s chief executive Emmanuel Faber told Paris delegates that the French-based dairy giant sourcing more than 1bn litres of milk in Ireland each year would now bring its entire supply chain in line with scientific recommendations to keep global warming under 2°C. “We’re now going to be responsible for the carbon emissions of the full cycle of our processes: from the farms, the hundreds and thousands of farmers that we work with, to our billion consumers in the world,” he said.

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