An Alternative for COP26: Decades of proven solutions and resources for reversing climate change

Permaculture Magazine
Monday, 8th November 2021

COP26 will be exploring what needs to be done to reverse climate change. Permaculture, Transition and Regenerative movements hold the solutions after decades of proven practices. Changes within agriculture, food systems and education can remove gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere, reducing the global temperature rise we must prevent.

As world leaders come together for COP26, they will be discussing what needs to be done to drastically reduce the effects of climate change.

Within the permaculture, transition and regenerative movements, we have the proven solutions and have been putting them into practice for decades.

Earth care

For climate change to be reversed, we need to redesign all our systems, including how we grow food and steward land. Today, agriculture and forestry activities generate 24% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.1

Regenerative agriculture is the solution, including practices such as no tillage, crop rotation, no pesticides or synthetic fertilisers, diverse crop cover and close loop fertility. Regenerative farms, market gardens and even allotments and gardens using these methods are: locking carbon into the ground; creating healthy, biodiverse soils that hold on to nutrients and water; increasing the minerals and nutrients in the soil which in turn creates healthy food. The key being healthy soil.

Project Drawdown, the world's leading resource for climate change solutions states, 'From an estimated 11.84 million hectares of current adoption, we estimate regenerative annual cropping to increase to a total of 221–322 million hectares by 2050. This rapid adoption is based in part on the historic growth rate of organic agriculture, as well as the projected conversion of conservation agriculture to regenerative annual cropping over time. This increase could result in a total reduction of 14.5–22.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide, from both sequestration and reduced emissions. Regenerative annual cropping could provide a US$2.3–3.5 trillion lifetime operational cost savings and lifetime net profit gain of US$135–206 billion on an investment of US$79–116 billion.'1

'Farms are seeing soil carbon levels rise from a baseline of 1 to 2 percent up to 5 to 8 percent over 10 or more years, which can add up to 25–60 tons of carbon per acre.'1

'It is estimated that at least 50 percent of the carbon in the Earth’s soils has been released into the atmosphere over the past centuries. Bringing that carbon back home through regenerative agriculture is one of the greatest opportunities to address human and climate health, along with the financial well-being of farmers.'1

And these regenerative methods can be used on all scales, so that home growers, allotments, smallholders and market gardeners can all aid in locking carbon and creating healthy soils that reduce water run off, provide diverse ecosystems to wildlife while creating local, healthy food.

Project Drawdown has a list of 100 solutions and their impact on carbon sequestration in a scenario of reaching a 2C rise and a 1.5C rise. Using silvopasture techniques could remove 26.5 gigatons in the next 30 years. Tree plantations on degraded land could remove 22.24 gigatons, managed grazing 16.42 gigatons, perennial staple crops 15.45 gigatons, and tree intercropping 15.03 gigatons.

At the top of the list is reducing food waste which could remove 90.70–101.71 gigatons of CO2, and that’s something we can all be a part of. By growing our food and shopping locally, we can change the system of supermarket shelves packed with food that won’t be sold. When we grow our own, or meet the people who grow our food, we are less likely to waste it, letting it sit at the back of the fridge. 

People Care

The climate crisis isn't just about the land, it is profoundly connected to social systems. Equality across all nations is integral to reducing the effects of the climate crisis: in education, access to food, human rights, access to healthcare and gender equality. As the world population increases, with the UN estimating 9.4–10.1 billion people by 2050, we need to consider how people will be eating, moving, building, buying, living etc. There is a huge disparity between the countries generating climate crisis emissions with those feeling the full effects of it.

'Almost half of consumption-related emissions are generated by just 10% of people globally.'2

Project Drawdown believes educating girls and family planning are key. By giving girls an education, they become key components in earth care. They can learn regenerative farming methods and become stewards of food, soil, trees and water. Education also improves economic circumstances and helps curb population growth which reduces emissions. Family planning also contributes, giving women the capacity and power to choose when they want to start a family.

Project Drawdown states, 'We model the impact of this population difference in more-developed as well as least-and less-developed countries, in terms of how much energy, building space, food, waste, and transportation would be used. The resulting emissions reductions across the entire system could be as high as 85.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide, just within the window of 2020–2050.'2

It's also important to understand that Indigenous communities are among those most dramatically impacted by climate change, despite contributing the least to its causes, because of their land-based livelihoods, histories of colonisation, and social marginalisation. They are at the forefront of resistance against deforestation, mineral and fuel extraction, and mono crop plantations – all actions that are devastating the planet. These communities need to be recognised for their 'critical contributions of traditional knowledge and practices'.3

'Indigenous and community-owned lands represent 18 percent of all land area, including at least 1.2 billion acres of forest, containing 37.7 billion tons of carbon stock. Growing the acreage under secure indigenous land tenure can increase above- and belowground carbon stocks and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation. Beyond carbon, indigenous land management conserves biodiversity, maintains a range of ecosystems services, safeguards rich cultures and traditional ways of life, and responds to the needs of the most vulnerable. Practices include:

  • home gardens,
  • agroforestry systems,
  • shifting swidden cultivation,
  • pastoral approaches to raising livestock,
  • fire management, and
  • community managed forests.'3

Future Care / Fair Shares

Every decision and action we make today should take into consideration future generations. The Iroquois Nations law, the seventh generational principle, does just that. All decisions made about energy, water and natural resources are made ensuring they are sustainable for generations in the future

By designing our homes, gardens, communities and businesses with permaculture, fair shares and future care are automatically encompassed. 

Ministry of the Future

How do we bring this concept into our current climate? One suggestion is a Ministry of the Future in every government, where all legislation made by governments or intergovernmentally, has to consider what could happen in the future, 200 years ahead, and not just five years from now. 

https://drawdown.org/solutions/regenerative-annual-cropping
https://drawdown.org/sectors/health-and-education
https://drawdown.org/solutions/indigenous-peoples-forest-tenure

Further resources

Earth care:

Books

No Dig Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Steph Hafferty: https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/no-dig-organic-home-garden.html

Food from your Forest Garden by Alan Carter: https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/a-food-forest-in-your-garden.html

Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture by Martin Crawford: https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/trees-for-gardens-orchards-and-permaculture.html

Films

Organic Self Sufficiency with Liz Zorab: www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQwQAGoYKCc

The Wild Forest Garden – zoning with permaculture design: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGdxU78wdEM

Permaculture Tools for Soil Repair: www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-9jQQqImpg

Article

'The Potential of Carbon Farming' in PM88

People care:

Books

People and Permaculture by Looby Macnamara: https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/people-and-permaculture.html

Films

Decolonising Permaculture with Principle 0: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yos6TKTbfSs

How to Understand & Change Culture: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBSxS2wEgoc

Article 

'Cultural Emergence tools for agents of change' in PM106

Future care / fair shares

Books

The Earth Care Manual by Patrick Whitefield: https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/the-earth-care-manual.html

Permaculture Design by Aranya: https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/permaculture-design-a-step-by-step-guide.html

Film

Future Care: www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBLnZAWvCPg

Articles

'Future Care, redefining the third ethic' in PM95

'Celebrating how young people are using permaculture to make a difference' in PM102

All articles from our past issues can be read with a subscription to Permaculture Magazine: https://shop.permaculture.co.uk/subscribe-to-permaculture-magazine.html

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