From NYC to Paris: The Road To A Cooler Planet

Sep 25, 2015 8:40 AM ET

By Gabriela Burian

When my daughter has a temperature of over 102°F no one has to tell me she’s sick. I see the signs before ever reaching for my thermometer. And if her fever goes much higher, we’re off to the doctor or emergency room.

Perhaps not coincidently, a comparable rise in the earth’s average temperature, of 2°C*, puts us all at a similar threshold – where manageable meets dangerous. Scientists agree that the earth is warming and, if left unchecked, that the negative impacts will be irreversible.

But luckily, while our planet may already have a “fever,” there is still time to keep it in check – just like a child’s fever – by acting now.

That’s why I’m so encouraged by the great work being done leading up to the 2015 Paris Climate Conference in early December and beyond. Known as COP21, this is the 21st annual “Conference of Parties” to the UN Framework on Climate Change. The conference aims to achieve a new international agreement on the climate, applicable to all countries, with the goal of keeping global warming below the 2°C threshold. If this agreement is reached, this will indeed be a transformative moment in world history.

Much of the activity leading up to COP21 is taking place during Climate Week in NYC, Sept. 21-28. There’s so much happening this week it’s hard to know where to start. Perhaps most notably, the UN is releasing its Global Goals for Sustainable Development (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs). These goals outline 17 commitments aimed at achieving extraordinary things within the next 15 years including ending extreme poverty, fighting inequality and injustice and fixing climate change.

Another key event, targeted at climate change, is the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships Initiative (LCTPi) Roundtable. LCPTi is a collaboration guided by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development with the aim of bringing businesses together around a series of concrete action plans to curb the pace of climate change and keep the earth’s temperatures at a manageable level. These plans will be presented at COP21.

There are currently nine active focus areas within LCPTi, and Monsanto co-leads the Climate Smart Agriculture program. As one of the co-chairs, I am proud to represent our company in this important process. Climate Smart Agriculture is a relatively new approach to developing conditions that will help advance the Global Goals, especially those associated with ending poverty and hunger, combating climate change, achieving gender equality, advancing sustainable consumption and production and promoting sustainable use of ecosystems.

Together, the Climate Smart Agriculture program partners are working on commitments to be reached by 2030 and 2050, respectively, which will help agriculture both mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change, reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and improve harvests and incomes for family farmers, many of whom live in the daily grip of poverty.

These commitments are important because agriculture and other land use contribute about 25 percent of the greenhouse gases from human activities. These come mainly from deforestation and emissions from livestock, soil and nutrient management.

But the commitments we make as part of the Climate Smart Agriculture LCPTi are just part of the story:

  • We are also members of We Mean Business, a coalition of organizations working with thousands of businesses and investors to advance the transition to a low carbon economy as the way to secure sustainable economic growth and prosperity.
  • Together with Conservation International and others we’re working to restore forests and prevent deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia. Because they absorb large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere, forests are important in the fight against climate change and provide many other environmental and economic benefits.
  • And, earlier this year, Monsanto committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our crop protection operations by 22 percent (per pound of active ingredient) by 2020, from our 2010 baseline. This represents a cumulative greenhouse gas reduction of 45 percent compared to 2002. We’re targeting our crop protection operations because it is the largest contributor to our company’s carbon footprint, making it the place where we can have the greatest positive impact. We also pledged to help farmers use nutrients more efficiently and curb greenhouse gas emissions on 1 million acres in the United States, also by 2020.

Climate smart agriculture is at the heart of our business. We view these commitments as a solid start, but know there’s much more to be done. Together with farmers, researchers, nonprofits, universities and many others we’re working on a common mission to help reduce the carbon footprint of agricultural production while growing the food needed to feed a burgeoning global population.

Making a balanced meal accessible to all, now and in the future, is the ultimate goal. And that can only happen if we collectively take action today.

Just as I wouldn’t sit around and watch my daughter’s fever spike to dangerous levels, none of us can afford to be complacent about climate change.

*2°C is equivalent to about 3.6°F. A person whose body temperature rises by much more than 3.6°F may be at serious risk to their health.