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November 2, 2021

On Tuesday, November 2nd, President Biden spoke at COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where he formally “launched” the Agricultural Innovation Mission (AIM) for Climate, which is supposed to “support research and innovation in climate-smart agriculture.” Along with the United Arab Emirates, the United States is “focused on increasing investment and enabling greater public-private and cross-sectoral partnerships to drive climate-smart agriculture and food systems.”

AIM for Climate focuses on “climate-smart agriculture” and public-private partnerships. The former has a vague definition that includes carbon offsetting and techno-fixes rather than real solutions to address the climate crisis and support farmer livelihoods. The latter means a perpetuation of the same corporate-led industrial agriculture models that have exacerbated the climate crisis and failed to solve global hunger.

Industrial agriculture is both dangerously vulnerable to the extreme weather caused by climate change as well as a major culprit in global greenhouse gas emissions. But instead of transitioning away from this model of agriculture, AIM for Climate props it up. Moreover, AIM for Climate will lead to massive land grabs as corporations look to acquire land to set up their carbon credit generating “climate-smart” plantations of industrial monocrops, which won’t help the climate, but which will lead to hunger, poverty, and severe and extensive human rights abuses and violations.

Not a single farmers’ organization has endorsed AIM for Climate. However, major multinational chemical and seed companies like Bayer-Monsanto and Syngenta, agri-foods corporations like PepsiCo, and corporate lobbying groups like CropLife and the World Economic Forum have endorsed it and are its biggest backers.

Moreover, it is telling that the two leading countries behind AIM for Climate, the United States and the United Arab Emirates, are major fossil fuel producing countries. As the ETC Group has written, the fact that AIM for Climate comes from these two countries suggests that their goal is not to keep fossil fuels in the earth and to protect nature but to be able to sell carbon credits and offsets, allowing them to continue burning fossil fuels, while making lucrative alliances with the corporate sector.

It is clear that the U.S. government is focusing on protecting the profits and power of agribusiness corporations at the expense of science and the communities who will be most impacted by hunger and negative climate impacts. AIM 4 Climate therefore undermines global action to protect and ensure food security in the face of the climate crisis and is rife with conflicts of interest.

The AIM 4 Climate initiative is part of a broader strategy by the US government – together with another coalition, the Coalition for Sustainable Productivity Growth, which the U.S. government launched along with major agro-exporting countries like Brazil and many of the same agribusiness corporations to undermine the European Union’s plan to transition to local, organic agriculture – to hijack climate action and the public good and allow agribusiness corporations to take over the agenda.

Both coalitions are based on the faulty, “productivist” narrative which says the world must produce more food to end hunger. However, the reality is that we are the world already produces more than enough food for everyone and that hunger is a result of the poverty and the extreme power imbalance created by the activities of agribusiness companies. In fact, we are actually overproducing, exporting across the world, and then wasting food, all to enrich corporations.

Both coalitions are also based on a chemical-industrial model of agriculture that is incredibly environmentally destructive and is a major contributor to the climate crisis. This model of chemical-industrial agriculture is out of step with the latest comprehensive science, as reflected in a 2019 report from the UN High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on food security and nutrition, which recommended a transition to food systems based on agroecology – food systems based on the 21st century science of ecology instead of the 19th century science of chemistry – to ensure food security in the face of the climate crisis. We can’t continue to produce our food with toxic, synthetic chemicals which destroy biodiversity and emit greenhouse gases. 

Agroecology is the most viable solution to the climate and hunger crises. Agroecology builds on ecological farming, which dramatically reduces greenhouse gas emissions while restoring the soil and building adaptation and resilience. But agroecology also puts the human rights of people at the center of policy-making, which promotes a more democratic society where the people who produce the food and care for the environment hold the power. 

To get through the climate emergency, we need democracy and human rights, not corporate technocracy and geopolitical squabbles.

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