Acorn at COP28: plenty to do

COP28, the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, was held in the United Arab Emirates this month. Delegations from all over the world convened to accelerate climate action.

Of course, just like last year, Acorn attended as well. In this blog, Martine Jansen (Acorn’s head of partnerships) shares her experiences at this event of global — and crucial — importance. 

Optimism with an edge 

With a focus on taking action and building hope, this year’s COP28 thematic approach was a positive one. But an event of this scale is bound to be less than homogenous when it comes to its attendees and their respective attitudes. As Martine notes: “There were basically two domains at COP28 — on the one hand, you had negotiations, and hope was certainly not the main theme there, but rather skepticism and disillusionment regarding the progress being made. Although in the end people were of course pleased with some statements regarding fossil fuels.” 

But despite (or perhaps because of) negotiations being characterized by doubt, the part of COP28 focused on collaboration and current action was much more hopeful. “There, people were discussing what we could actually do together.” 

Attention to agriculture 

Another positive takeaway Martine notes: “I appreciated seeing that agriculture seemed to be getting more important compared to other initiatives. And while there was still a lot of conceptual talk, Acorn was touted as an initiative that was actually already live, making it a positive exception, much like last year.” 

Already taking action comes with added benefits, of course: “We’re already learning from our practice, something that’s not always the case with many other initiatives.” 

Focus on farmers 

She looks back the Food, Agriculture and Water Day, which kicked off with a session in the main hall about family farms and smallholder farms. “Smallholders from various areas around the globe shared their perspective and actions, showcasing the viability of regenerative agriculture. Together, they’d prepared a statement in which they asked for a seat at the table — and for financing to flow directly to farmers or the organizations they belonged to. So clearly, that’s often not the case — which to me confirms that our farmer-centric approach is the way to go.” 

Especially because this field comes with its own unique challenge: “You can’t phase out food and agriculture the way you can oil and gas, so you have to make the solution workable for the farmers — they need to be centered, and they need to be remunerated.” 

Laying the groundwork 

With Acorn’s approach doing just that (putting the farmer first, and ensuring agroforestry is a financially viable approach for them), it is perhaps no surprise that Acorn laid the groundwork for some promising new connections. 

“We signed a memorandum of understanding with Kyrgyzstan and AFoCO to regenerate 600,000 hectares of degraded smallholder land. We also signed a memorandum of understanding with TechnoServe — a reliable, large-scale party whose trust in us is very valuable. In addition, we started conversations at nation level with several countries and agreed to further scale some of the collaborations that already started” 

MoU signing at COP28 UAE with Katarina Kahlmann, Chief Program Officer of TechnoServe, Martine Jansen, Head of Partnerships Acorn, William Warshauer, President and CEO of TechnoServe.

MoU signing at COP28 UAE with Katarina Kahlmann, Chief Program Officer of TechnoServe, Martine Jansen, Head of Partnerships Acorn, William Warshauer, President and CEO of TechnoServe.

Pragmatism and progress 

Taking a more level-headed viewpoint, Martine reflects: “Of course, we need to take a critical look at whether it’s worth it to attend these large-scale events in person, when it comes to emissions. But I do think it’s a valuable way to implement more Acorn projects.” 

Something that’s more important than ever. “It certainly became clear to me at COP28 that we can’t wait anymore — we need to take action now. But while there are plenty of commitments, resources, and willing parties, we need more initiatives that actually work and result in money flowing to the farmers themselves — like Acorn, and our concrete approach to taking climate action in a way that helps farmers.” 

Finally, Martine points out that the UN Climate Change Conference has some work cut out for itself, too. “I hope there’ll be more farmers in attendance during future editions. This year, there were about 180 farmers, and 97,000 delegates. Hopefully that’ll be different next year.” 

About Acorn

We help support smallholder farmers in developing countries transition to agroforestry. Together with local partners, we facilitate the funding and training needed by farmers to start their agroforestry transition. Transforming the sequestered CO2 through agroforestry into Carbon Removal Units (CRUs), we offer carbon credits to responsible corporates to help them reach their climate goals. The growth of the trees is measured with satellite imagery, AI and LiDAR, and certified by ICROA-accredited Plan Vivo.

With 80% of the sales revenue going directly to the farmers, it creates an additional income stream and helps them adopt a more climate-resilient way of farming that improves food security, biodiversity, and financial independence.

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Martine JansenHead of PartnershipsLinkedIn
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