Of course, the proof of the pudding is always in the eating.
We all need to deliver asap on lowering GHG emissions, including business. But almost 200 countries committing themselves to a 31-page climate agreement with the ambition to keep the temperature rise in the world below 2 degrees Celsius – meaning 40-70% emission reductions by 2050 compared to the 2010 levels – is almost a miracle. It looks like we are facing a turning point in history: it is the beginning of the end of the fossil energy & high carbon era. An epoque which started in the UK in 1760 with the Industrial Revolution fueled by coal and later in the 2nd Industrial Revolution complemented by cheap oil and gas. Renewables – solar, wind, biomass, hydro, geothermal, etc. – will now, in the period after “12/12” conquer the world at a much higher pace. As will innovative technologies and measures for energy- and fuel efficiency. But there is more, 12/12/2015 or the day that the leaders of the world community gave the green light to the climate deal, boosted also the global sense of urgency for the development of a climate smart – and more sustainable/circular/less wasteful – agriculture and food system.
Agrofood including livestock bears the heavy responsibility of an 18% contribution to global warming. Agriculture and food are now more than ever under the world’s microscope and progress or failure are closely monitored by civil society, (financial) markets, regulators and politicians. Most of us working on sustainability within the SAI Platform network understand and experience almost daily the drivers and consequences of the serious transition the agro-food companies are in, for which we are working. We know we are running out of time, we understand that we need to step up the necessary sustainability changes in our production chains. And get more buy-in from colleagues in the company or chain partners including farmers. Post “12/12”, we will hopefully be helped in our joint SAI Platform mission with a broader understanding and much more support from various sides.
Needless to say that we will need this wider support, because we have to bring in the results. Before “12/12” we have had the privilege to explore, to experiment and to network. After “12/12” only two things count: (climate) smart agriculture actions and sustainability/lower carbon results. A successful approach requires cooperation between all the different parts of the agrofood chain – especially with farmers – and the right mindset focused on smart innovations and business opportunities. With dairy player FrieslandCampina in parent country the Netherlands, we have had some interesting experiences within the wider framework of our strategic commitment to climate-neutral growth and our sustainable dairy farming program Foqus planet. Helped by the investments of our member farmers in solar, wind and biomass, we managed to reach the milestone in January this year of 100% green electricity for 30+ dairy factories, our innovation center on the campus of Wageningen University and a corporate head office in the Netherlands. 50% of the green electricity is coming from our member-farms. We have the first dairy factories powered by certified biomass (pyrolysis-oil), wood chips and next year by green gas from processed manure. The first milk collection trucks are fueled by liquid natural gas, but that will become in due course green gas from manure. The same is now possible with new engines in barges that transport dairy products over water. We see potential in valorizing manure via biogas, recycling valuable minerals such as phosphate and the production of compost as a fertilizer alternative. We aim to build new earning models together with farmers, other business partners in utilities and waste management, technology providers and government agencies. Not an easy route, but definitely worth trying out as an innovative icon of the circular economy approach. This will help us to get new products out of waste, produce renewable energy, recycle minerals and reduce carbon emissions.
Post “12/12” we have to act quickly, get new insights from pilots that will help us to scale up. No time to waste, no opportunity to waste…
Frank Van Ooijen is member of SAI Platform Executive Committee and SVP Sustainability with Friesland Campina
Know more about the UNFCCC Paris Agreement