BSSS Engaging With Policymakers at COP28

Nov 27, 2023 | Blog, Featured, Featured Blog, News

This will be the third year that the Society attends the COP climate summit under our official non-governmental organisation (NGO) observer status.  

As an NGO at COP, our role is to hold leaders to account to ensure they are delivering against their climate pledges. This year will be particularly relevant as King Charles, who provided the opening address to our World Congress of Soil Science in Glasgow in 2022, will deliver the opening address to delegates in Dubai. 

This year marks a step change in our engagement at the event as we host our own formal side event during the programme. Side events are a platform for admitted observer organizations, which have limited speaking opportunities in the formal negotiations, to engage with Parties and other participants for knowledge sharing, capacity building, networking, and exploring actionable options for meeting the climate challenge. 

Our event Natural carbon sequestration (NCS): Leveraging soils for mitigation, storage & biodiversity benefits takes place on Sunday 10 December from 13:15 – 14:45 local time. This joint event with the Climate Center will see us convene senior stakeholders to discuss soil’s untapped role in carbon storage. Including speakers James Cooke (Welsh Government), Éliane Ubalijoro (Center for International Forestry Research) and Secretary Karen Ross (California Department of Food & Agriculture), the session will bring together both scientists and policymakers to discuss how we can share best practice and implement policy which builds on the latest science and positively impacts our earth.  

This will build on our annual conference which will be held in Belfast on Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 December, whilst COP is also taking place. Here James, along with speakers from the English, Scottish, Northern Irish and Republic of Ireland soil policy teams, will set out their approach to soil monitoring and management in their nation. Our conference will focus on the trailblazing work which the NI government and AFBI, which is delivering the soil nutrient health scheme, is undertaking and will share the impact the scheme is likely to have for farmers and the wider economy.  

Our focus this year is linked to the COP28 Food and Agriculture theme. We will be highlighting the role of regenerative agriculture and soil health co-benefits that can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Our asks and recommendations continue to: 

  • Highlight the importance of soil in climate discussions for mitigation and adaptation: for carbon sequestration, sustainable food production and construction, and biodiversity  
  • Share our support for an international Soil Health Resolution, and encourage all countries to commit to monitoring soil health in the same way as water and air 
  • Recommend key aspects for implementing improvements in soil health to international governments. Whilst these recommendations were developed for our response to the Soil Health Inquiry, they remain relevant worldwide.  

To further demonstrate the positive impact of investing in our soil, we have launched a new series of case studies. Invest in Soil is an opportunity for us to share the best, most impactful case studies on the value of soil. To ensure governments commit to implementing policy and the financing to do so, our case studies highlight how investing in soil has positive economic and knock-on impacts. We will be expanding these case studies over the coming months and if you would like to share an impactful story on our webpage, please contact us. 

We are not immune to the irony of flying halfway around the world to advocate for climate solutions.  We know that the environmental impact we will have whilst attending COP won’t be insignificant. However, we believe that by sharing examples of good soil management with the COP audience, we can ensure soil is part of the climate conversation and more importantly part of the climate solution. 

We are a diverse Society, representing almost 950 members whose professional expertise span sectors and research areas which align closely to the UN SDGs. The videos we produced for World Congress of Soil Science, highlighted the strong link between soil and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These four videos, are all relevant to COP28 themes and focus on SDGs Life on Land (SDG15), Food and Farming (SDG2), Sustainable Cities (SDG11) and Water (SDG6), and continue to have wide-reaching appeal. By sharing these videos over the next two weeks we aim to highlight the key role of soil to a range of audiences and to the decision makers at COP28, who can affect all our futures. 

By Jack Hannam (President) 

Bruce Lascelles (Past President) and Jack Hannam (President) will be attending COP 28 between 30 November and 11 December in Dubai, UAE. 

The British Society of Soil Science has committed to be a ‘carbon positive’ organisation by 2030. Whilst we agree how to make these changes in an effective and sustainable way, we will be offsetting the carbon from our flights via Ecologi. 

Read more

Related articles