Rabobank and UN Environment have created a new $1 billion facility to finance sustainable agriculture using a combination of public and private funding. Together they also invite other interested financial institutions to sign up and work actively with global food companies to put this into practice.
The facility aims to provide grants, de-risking instruments and credit to clients involved in sustainable agricultural production, processing or the trade of soft commodities who adhere to strict provisions for forest protection, restoration and the involvement of smallholders.
Rabobank CEO Wiebe Draijer and UN Environment regional director, Latin America and the Caribbean, Leo Heileman signed the partnership at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development plenary session, October 17 in Mexico City. As a contribution to the partnership, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development invites other major global players in primary production, the food industry and financial institutions to work together.
The coalition kicks off in Brazil and Indonesia. In Brazil, the coalition commits itself to the promotion and, where feasible, the financing of integrated crop, livestock and forestry (ICLF) farming practices on the 17 million hectares of existing arable land under the management of Brazilian farmers financed by Rabobank. This activity is part of the strategic WWF Rabobank partnership. In Indonesia, the coalition aims to finance replanting schemes for smallholders in partnership with corporate clients. These include forest and biodiversity protection, restoration and certification of oil palm.
“As the leading global food and agriculture bank, Rabobank recognizes its responsibility to combine long-term stability of food production for the growing global population and the transition to sustainable land use,” Draijer said. “That’s why we kick-start this initiative with our partners, UN Environment and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. We welcome other major global players in the primary production, food industry and financial institutions to work together with us. Our aim is to substantially increase the quality of existing arable land while protecting biodiversity and reducing climate change worldwide. It is clear that a different way of agricultural practices is needed that includes incentives and provisions to protect forest ecosystems and restore degraded lands if we are to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as well as keep global temperature rises to below 2C as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement.”
“Support from industry leaders like Rabobank is an extremely important first step,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment. “We want the entire finance industry to change their agricultural lending, away from deforestation and towards integrated landscapes, which provide good jobs, protect biodiversity, and are good for the climate. Sustainable land use and landscape restoration is also fundamentally about sound investments and good business. We want to speed up this trend so that it becomes the 'new normal' for the finance industry.”
“We need more initiatives that go beyond just talking about the issues at hand,” said Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). “For this very reason this partnership is to be commended as it gives financing possibilities to feeding the world while using agricultural lands sustainably. This is just the beginning and we need other WBCSD members and major global players in primary production, the food industry and financial institutions to join this initiative and keep working on finding business solutions for climate smart agriculture.”
Halting climate change and an increasing agricultural footprint on the one hand, while ensuring growth in agricultural production to feed an estimated 9 billion people in 2050, are among the most defining challenges of the 21st century.
Agriculture is the second biggest driver of climate change related emissions, and represents about one-quarter of total annual greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, there are more than 800 million people hungry at present and more mouths need to be fed in the future. We need to jointly stimulate existing and new best practices decreasing agriculture’s footprint and restoring quality of existing land used for agriculture and forestry. And to measure progress, generally accepted guidelines need to be established.