“Lobby On!” exclaimed Rosa Kiltgaar Andersen of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers. Andersen was wrapping up a closed-door meeting here in Copenhagen at which farmers from India to Australia discussed how to influence delegates at the climate change talks.
Agriculture is big business — and a big lobby on climate change. Agriculture accounts for major shares of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions; about a quarter of all CO2 emissions, more than half of the methane emissions, and nearly all the world’s nitrous oxide emissions. Because of that, Andersen says, they should be included in the global discussion about how they’ll be asked to reduce that impact.
Andersen’s federation represents 97 country associations, and they’ve had a presence at the UN climate talks since the Bali convention two years ago. In Copenhagen, they’re here hosting events showcasing their own solutions, including training farmers to have more sustainable practices. To get their message across, they try to get access to “the right people,” Andersen says. “We have a widespread network of people from their own countries. I talk to my own government and so do all the other ones, and we try to influence the policymakers.”
Russell Williams of the American Farm Bureau Federation says the industry’s goal at the UN talks is to “make sure anything that comes out of here doesn’t negatively affect the ability of farmers’ ability to feed the world.” Williams has been lobbying the U.S. Congress for two years. He is one of 188 lobbyists representing agriculture on climate change in Washington — a figure that has more than doubled over the past six years. The agriculture industry is the fourth largest industry lobby on climate in the United States, with about 80 businesses and trade organizations registered.
“We have a lot of power when we’re in D.C., but once we get here, it’s a different story,” Williams says. Here in Copenhagen, the industry must vie for time against other interest groups. But a key role, he adds, is to offer a hand if U.S. negotiators need an agricultural voice.
“I go and speak to the U.S. delegation about concerns we may have,” Williams explains. Those concerns might include changes in proposed text or “an intervention some other country may make that we think it may be negative on agriculture,” he says. “If they want some talking points on that, that’s what I’m here to provide.”