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Newsletter n. 74

16/08/2020

1.EXPERIENCES: Terra Bene Comune Document – Agriculture on a small scale

2.NEWS FROM THE SIP FORUM:

3.NEWS ON THE SOIL AND EUROPEAN INSTITUTIONS: What is Taxonomy?

4.WE ARE NOT ALONE!:

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Agriculture on a small scale: Terra Bene Comune (The Land is a Common Good) Document

The acronym GAS stands for Gruppo di acquisto solidale [Fairtrade purchasing group]. It refers to groups of people who get together in order to buy products, generally food, on the basis of the sustainability and equitability of those products. We present an initiative taken by a series of GAS in the Marche region who decided to apply to the regional authorities for formal approval of a law to recognize and promote small-scale local farming.

This is their petition.

Given that

– farming, a primary and substantial sector in the lives of everybody cannot be considered simply the production of “goods” because the act of eating well is the basis of health,

– the land is a “common good” to be protected and preserved to ensure the survival of future generations,

We strongly desire,

– to take care of our environment, supporting small-scale agriculture, an agriculture that is “resident”, resilient and that protects and safeguards our land;

– an agriculture that “saves” and protects natural and water reserves;

– an agriculture that is diversified and maintains biodiversity while preserving the beauty of the landscape;

– an agriculture that is aware of the climate change that is underway, and is capable of developing measures to mitigate and adapt to it;

– an agriculture that does not use artificial pesticides, that follows the principles of organic farming and agroecology more generally;

– an agriculture that is based on families and communities and that creates bonds and sociality, while passing on traditions and knowledge;

– sustainable livestock farming that takes account of animal welfare;

– healthy food whose place of production is known and familiar, and that brings with it as added value a solid relationship of trust between the farmer and consumers;

– an agriculture that favours direct local sales;

– production that restores the dignity of agriculture also through fair pricing that takes into account the quality of the processing, as well as the labour and rights of farmers;

– an agriculture that is more simply regulated, and in particular adaptable to mountainous and disadvantaged areas, in order to create opportunities for work and local wellbeing.

Small-scale agriculture must be regulated by a correspondingly small-scale bureaucracy, because the removal and simplification of bureaucratic regulations are necessary for the production, processing and sale of agricultural products.

 For this reason we request the adoption of a specific law.

Art. 44 – Italian Constitution

“In order to obtain a rational use of the soil and establish equitable social relationships, the law imposes obligations and restrictions on private land ownership, sets limits to its extent according to regions and farming zones, promotes and imposes decontamination of the land, transformation of large estates and the re-establishment of productive units; helps small and medium landownership. The law will make provisions to favour mountainous areas.”

It would be hard for them to be clearer or more determined, but to understand their level of commitment we would like to introduce you to the promoters of the law by watching the video they produced to accompany the campaign to collect signatures .

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Letter to members of the ENVI and AGRI Commissions of the European Parliament

The SIP Forum continues to draw the attention of the European Parliament to the importance of the soil. A letter has been sent to members of its Environmental (ENVI) and Agriculture (AGRI) committees, more than 200 people in total. The letter was sent in FR / DE / EN. Here is the English version:

The release of the Green Deal for Europe last December triggered new political interest in all European environmental issues. Despite the restrictions forced by the COVID19 pandemic, the DG Environment – which follows the deadlines planned by the Green Deal roadmap – has already released some official communications on environmental themes.

In this new context, the soil has gained visibility as it is clearly mentioned in the communication on biodiversity through the commitment towards a new Directive Proposal to be released by 2021.

We wish to remind everyone that a specific European directive does not yet safeguard the soil, the backbone of any ecosystem and the source of life, even though it is increasingly in danger of degradation and loss. The official reports of the European Environmental Agency report catastrophic data on the loss of soil in its various forms .

 It thus becomes essential to develop a behavioural framework based on soil protection, repair, and preservation, against the current and underestimated practice of its misuse. Maintenance of soil quality and functionality is pivotal to realizing all of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and to ensure a decent future for the coming generations.

 It is now time for EU institutions to reconsider, rethink, and reassess all that has to be done for the soil, in order to achieve a scientifically robust plan capable of allowing its sustainable management, as well as an innovative agriculture aware of the global climate crisis. This plan will have to build the base for a future proposal on soil regulation with one central and precise principle: no single document can lack the immediate and mandatory halt to any waste of soil. This purpose does not imply the total halting of the construction industry. It is instead the only vision able to reconcile soil preservation with the huge building activity needed to recover, energetically improve, and secure our existing enormous and obsolescent architectural heritage. This, indeed, will allow us to proceed with the upgrading and refurbishment of buildings and houses in our cities and villages, so as to promote technological compliance.

However, protection of the soil from uncontrolled exploitation and from pollution (oil extraction, illegal landfills, waste mismanagement), and thus from the present negative trend, will be possible only through a shared acceptance of responsibility based on health, quality, real food safety, access to land, and the re-establishment of a rural and soil culture, but also through a deep rethinking of urban development and growth, of mobility and the necessary infrastructures.

It is thus essential that the new proposal for a directive on soil can emerge through the involvement of researchers and the academic community, as well as other stakeholders involved in soil use: farmers, unions, architects, and engineers, constructors, but also representatives of civil society and the world of production, administrators, landscapers, practitioners, and EU institutions.

 As Forum Salviamo il Paesaggio we have already called the attention of the Community institutions to the importance of safeguarding the soil for present and future generations .

 We are now asking you, as a member or substitute of both ENVI and AGRI Commissions, to act directly to promote a coherent legal framework to include our requests.

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Pro Natura Cuneo

Pro Natura Cuneo, established on 9 January 1965, was the first environmental association in the province of Cuneo. It owed its existence to some prominent figures of the time, as well as bodies such as the Province and Comune of Cuneo, the Chamber of Commerce, the local savings bank, the local forestry commission, the education authority, and the provincial tourist board.

It is noteworthy that public bodies felt the necessity, in the face of the abuses that were starting to damage the land, to gather around them some of the most prominent members of the Cuneo intelligentsia at the time in order to create an independent association whose aim was to protect nature. The slogan that was chosen and kept when the Statute was revised tells us a great deal, speaking as it does of that moment in history and indicating the intent of the new association: “Make Nature known, because by knowing it we come to love it and in loving it we protect it”. Continua a leggere “Pro Natura Cuneo”

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GNDE (Civil Society) ≠ GNE (European Commission) – Suggestions for changing behaviour

GNDE –Civil  Society

Analysis of the impact of COVID19 on the planet leads inescapably to the conclusion that we must move from a Green New Deal for EU to a Global Green New Deal.

We must always keep 4 lessons in mind: .

1: You cannot cheat physical reality;

2: Time is the crucial variable;

3:Social solidarity is absolutely key;

4: We can change fast when we need to.

Never before has humanity faced such global challenges that need global solutions — it is now more important than ever that we band together transnationally in our future actions to tackle this health and climate catastrophe. That is why the DiEM25 and Sanders Institute backed Progressive International is calling for a Global Green New Deal.

As already illustrated in previous newsletters, the GNDE offers an immediate response to the current crisis. Its proposal of a European Health and Care Standard, for example, would establish a minimum standard for public healthcare across the continent, setting up a resilient healthcare system to cope with future health crises. Making green technology available at low or no cost to developing countries could also help reduce the pressure on the environment and limit involuntary migration. The Green New Deal for Europe campaign extends cooperation with other grassroots organisations in order to keep the pressure on national governments to pass laws and implement EU directives that move the economy and society towards a sustainable just transition.

We have reached the time for the Global Green New Deal!

GNE –European Commission

“All that glitters is not gold” and “the right hand does not always knows what the left is doing”. These thoughts came to mind as we read the declarations of the European Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski, and the European Environment Commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius.

Speaking before the French Senate on 2nd July, the Agriculture Commissioner commented about the targets in the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy, and affirmed: “If it were to become apparent that the achievement of the objectives set out in this strategy threatens both food safety and the competitiveness of our agriculture, then these objectives would have to be revised”. With this remark, the Commissioner reaffirmed the primacy of food production over environmental concerns of the F2F strategy.

Shortly before that, on the 22nd of June, Environment Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius in front of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee said: “Food security is no longer a major concern for the European Union” and “other challenges are dominating the European food system, such as food waste, overconsumption, obesity and its overall environmental footprint.” In this way, he raised doubts on the long-standing primacy of food security over environmental features in the current EU food system, suggesting that traditional concerns might give way to issues like climate change, sustainability, or biodiversity.

It might seem like a contradiction, but in reality it is a classic case of resistance to any change, even in the face of the evidence. Just as the first lesson of the COVID-19 experience has taught us: Physical reality cannot be denied!

Suggestions for changing behaviour –  Let’s renationalize!

In periods of crisis the private sector turns overwhelmingly to the public sector, asking for interventions on health, education, jobs, incomes.

This shows the importance of the role of the State and that “government is the solution, not the problem”. Let’s stop privatizations then, and look again at those carried out in the past. Schools, healthcare, water, gas, roads, railways – the list is a long one – must and can fall under the auspices of public institutions. IRI, the Institute for Industrial Reconstruction, played a fundamental part in the economic reconstruction of Italy after the war. In a situation of crisis like the current one, the industrial sector can be taken back under State control, bringing an end to the multinationals that are based only on exploitation and the profits of the few. This is not a utopian idea! Some European cities and areas have already achieved it, starting with control of water, healthcare and transport.

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What is Taxonomy?

We have been asked to give a more detailed explanation of the technical report “Taxonomy – Financing a sustainable European Economy”. Here it is.

The introduction to the document explains the basic concepts in a concise way:

The EU Taxonomy is a tool to help investors, companies, issuers and project promoters navigate the transition to a low-carbon, resilient and resource-efficient economy.

The Taxonomy sets performance thresholds (referred to as ‘technical screening criteria’) for economic activities which:

tassonomia

  • make a substantive contribution to one of six environmental objectives (Figure1);
  • do no significant harm (DNSH) to the other five, where relevant;
  • meet minimum safeguards (e.g., OECD Guidelines on Multinational Enterprises and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights).

The performance thresholds will help companies, project promoters and issuers access green financing to improve their environmental performance, as well as helping to identify which activities are already environmentally friendly.

In doing so, it will help to grow low-carbon sectors and decarbonise high-carbon ones.

The EU Taxonomy is one of the most significant developments in sustainable finance and will have wide ranging implications for investors and issuers working in the EU, and beyond.

The European Commission asked for this document and charged a Technical Expert Group (TEG) on Sustainable Finance, with the aim of developing recommendations on a range of topics, including what the Taxonomy technical screening criteria should be for the objectives of climate change mitigation and adaptation. The TEG has received input from all parts of the investment chain, industry sector representatives, academia, environmental experts, civil society and public bodies. Both the private sector and EU institutions are well represented, while the representatives of civil society do not fully represent the environment sector.

The TEG’s final report to the European Commission contains recommendations relating to the overarching design of the Taxonomy, as well as guidance on how users of the Taxonomy can develop Taxonomy disclosures. It has a summary of the economic activities covered by the technical screening criteria, but it is supplemented by a Technical Annex containing:

  • A full list of revised or additional technical screening criteria for economic activities which can substantially contribute to climate change mitigation or adaptation (including assessment of significant harm to other environmental objectives); and
  • Methodological statements to support the above recommendations.

Despite raising some doubts, these are important documents to which alternative solutions must however be found, especially if they are destined to guide the allocation of funds for financing Green Deal projects. The soil is never mentioned directly, rather it is taken for granted as an element of the ecosystem; but if we take waste into account, how can we not consider pollution of the soil?

In the meantime, in mid June 2020, the European Parliament approved the taxonomy as an operational tool, to be adopted before the end of 2020.

The TEG’s reports can be found in full here:

https://bit.ly/3kh1kNb

https://bit.ly/39XUSGk

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Citizens’ Climate Convention (France)

When we don’t know how to resolve a problem, normally we ask someone we trust for advice. Some politicians are doing this: in order to raise their political visibility or not to be accused of “going it alone”, they address voters directly. The most obvious case is that of Putin, who has created a mechanism that will allow him to stay in power for longer. Less clear are the actions of the Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte who in the space of a week, starting from a discussion document, consulted all the social partners (from the private sector to NGOs including representatives of Fridays For Future), leaving most dissatisfied.

The approach of French President Macron was more subtle: engulfed in strong criticism of his political choices (gilets jaunes, local elections, management of COVID-19, etc.) he started by holding a series of public meetings before allowing 150 citizens – chosen at random and representative of French society, and given the name Citizens’ Climate Convention – to express their ideas on what a society that is respectful of the environment in a context of social justice should look like, in particular by setting out a series of measures that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030. After 8 months of work, the Convention presented the government with a report on their conclusions. Continua a leggere “Citizens’ Climate Convention (France)”

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Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture has become the darling of many policymakers, food companies and farmers. Advocates claim a triple win: climate change mitigation, increased profit for farmers and greater resilience to a changing climate. It is not so clear: the practices grouped as regenerative agriculture can improve soil health and yield some valuable environmental benefits, but are unlikely to achieve large-scale emissions reductions. This is the main message of a report of the World Research Institute (WRI).

Although regenerative agriculture has no universal definition, the term is often used to describe practices aimed at promoting soil health by restoring soil’s organic carbon. The world’s soils store several times the amount carbon as the atmosphere, acting as a natural “carbon sink.” But globally, soil carbon stocks have been declining as a result of factors such as the conversion of native landscapes to croplands and overgrazing. One goal of regenerative practices is to use some of the carbon that plants have absorbed from the atmosphere to help restore soil carbon.

There is broad agreement that most regenerative agriculture practices are good for soil health and have other environmental benefits. No-till reduces soil erosion and encourages water to infiltrate soils (although it can require greater use of herbicides). Cover crops do the same, and can also reduce water pollution. Diverse crop rotations can lower pesticide use. And good grazing practices — such as moving cattle around frequently, adding legumes or fertilizers, and avoiding overgrazing — can increase vegetation and protect water sources.

A scientific report from the World Research Institute analysing mitigation options in the food and land sector concluded that the practical potential was at best modest due to several challenges. Thus, it indicates several solutions organized into a five-course menu:

(1) reduce growth in demand for food and other agricultural products;

(2) increase food production without expanding agricultural land;

(3) protect and restore natural ecosystems;

(4) sustainably increase fish supply;

(5) reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production (with a limited role for soil carbon sequestration and a much larger role for reducing emissions from cattle, manure, fertilizers, rice cultivation and energy use).

Many of these solutions are ready for scaling and come with co-benefits for farmers, consumers, food security and the environment. As governments seek to build back economies and food companies chart ambitious climate strategies, we recommend decision-makers select from the above five thematics to close the agricultural emissions gap and contribute to a sustainable food future.