In the climate news blizzard that followed the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage, one of the most historic investments in climate solutions went largely unnoticed.
The IRA included $20 billion in funding for climate measures in agriculture, much of which was geared toward expanding regenerative techniques. Now Republicans in Congress are trying to re-route that funding to crop subsidies, or cut it altogether.
The five-year federal farm bill is set to expire this October, and half a trillion dollars are on the table for funding that impacts industries and communities across the country, making a deal in the divided Congress essential. But allocations for programs called for by the IRA have become a point of contention amongst Republicans with varying views on climate change.
The IRA multiplied funding for four active conservation programs in the Department of Agriculture:
The EQIP was the main beneficiary of the funding boost. It’s a three-decade old program that funds ecosystem restoration and decarbonization projects on American farmland, including with regenerative agriculture practices.
One such practice funded by EQIP is the cultivation of cover crops. Plants like radishes, clovers and rye can quickly settle roots and grow on fallow farm plots, thereby providing “cover” for the ground below. That helps keep moisture in the soil during droughts and improves ground water absorption during floods.
Planting cover crops is still relatively rare in the U.S. due to prohibitive up-front costs and an average three-year return on investment, making the EQIP funds even more important.
Meanwhile, CSP promotes and funds long-term projects on American farms like agroforestry measures that replace monoculture farms with more fruiting trees and shrubs that reduce demand for fertilizer. Some climate advocates point out that, while the IRA funding is important for regenerative ag, it makes no mention of tackling the outsized emissions from cattle.
Newly-elected Republicans appear reluctant to keep these programs alive, including House Agriculture Chair G.T. Thompson who lamented that “there is so much money being thrown into climate change.”
Some have argued that climate hawks should think twice about framing the farm bill as a vehicle for climate policy. Emily Bass of the Breakthrough Institute argues that prioritizing regenerative agriculture in the farm bill should take a backseat to more “pragmatic tactics” that would fall in line with Republican policy goals, like increasing the efficiency and output of existing farms.
Sustainable agriculture is also running into strong political opposition behind closed doors in Brussels.
The EU’s “Farm to Fork” sustainable food strategy calls for reducing hazardous pesticide and fertilizer use in Europe by 50% by 2030, while growing organic farming to a quarter of all EU farms in the same timeframe.
Much like the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork plan’s sweeping ambitions are both its strength and its weakness. The strategy aims to tackle many of the systemic problems threatening the food system in Europe on a fast-tracked time scale.
But behind each of these objectives are entrenched economic industries and constituencies that are already struggling to cope with pesticide bans and tight water supply. With open debates on so many policy fronts, conflicting interests from 27 countries are putting progress on climate-friendly agriculture in peril.
One example is the fight over EU funding for the beef and red wine industries. Earlier this year, 34 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) condemned an EU-sponsored “Become a Beefetarian” PR campaign that directed €4.5 million to Spanish and Belgian beef lobby groups to promote meat consumption.
Beef is far and away the most greenhouse gas-intensive part of modern diets and the funding to protect European cow farmers struck the climate-friendly MEPs as counter-productive while the Green Deal is gaining steam.
On the other hand, EU Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski has been openly critical of the European Green Deal for years. He has echoed concerns from Southern and Eastern European countries about the fairness of raising standards for animal welfare and reducing pesticides across the continent despite marked economic disparities between member states.
MEPs are hurrying to resolve the conflicts before the pall of a lame-duck session falls over Brussels ahead of European elections in 2024.
Some good news for regenerative agriculture came out of China this week, where researchers found that a trial of low-methane rice cultivation methods showed improved crop yields of up to 20%.
The conversation around methane emissions in agriculture tends to focus on the American and European contexts, where emissions stem primarily from cow-related sources: enteric fermentation (or, burps) and the decomposition of manure.
In China, however, most agricultural methane emissions come from cultivating rice. Rice is a food staple for more than 3.5 billion people around the world, but accounts for 12% of global methane emissions. Almost a third of the world’s annual stock comes from China.
Rice’s climate problem is in the paddies.
Flooded paddies became the customary cultivation method in China because for millennia they offered farmers a low-tech pesticide solution. Rice is perfectly suited to grow on dry land, but it also grows in shallow water, where many weeds and pests that compete with it cannot.
Unfortunately, micro-organisms called methanogens also love water-logged marshes, especially the ones with rice in them. Methanogens thrive in oxygen-poor and nutrient-rich environments. Nestled comfortably underwater and alongside rice plants, millions of these tiny prokaryotes produce roughly as much greenhouse gas pollution as flying when they metabolize rice roots.
The resulting emissions combined with historic droughts in China’s rice bowl last year are accelerating the race to develop less-water intensive rice farming to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.
One approach is the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a process developed in Madagascar in 1981 that allows rice to thrive in shallower paddies, which are left to dry in some parts of the year. SRI has proven to be an effective low-emissions technique in Africa and Latin America.
But it hasn’t worked out so far in Southwestern China’s rice regions in part because it runs counter to long-held traditions. Rice farms in Southern China are often plotted together, meaning that irrigation from one farmer’s paddy can easily run over into another’s, confusing and often un-doing progress.
Researchers have worked around this by planting rice on top of rows of mounded earth with flooded trenches in between them, a process known as “furrow flooding”. The Institute of Soil Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that this experiment reduced methane emissions by 60–80%.
Rice farming has also moved to more Northern parts of China, where dry-farming has been shown to reduce methane outputs by 30%. Together, these programs are at the top of the Chinese government’s list for rural emissions reductions to be completed in the coming years.
Check out some of the latest featured jobs below. If you don't see anything that speaks to you, you can always go to Climatebase to explore thousands of other opportunities.
"Nightpeak Energy was founded in 2022 by four seasoned industry veterans that together have developed, financed, and constructed over 2.9 GWh of batteries in the US along with GWs of other renewables representing billions of dollars of invested capital. The company is backed by leading venture and private equity investor Energy Spectrum Capital. Our mission is to reliably power our ..."
"NuGen Capital is an investor, owner, and operator of renewbale infrastructure solutions. Founded in 2010, NuGen invests in renewable energy and impact driven enterprises that seek to change the world. We offer renewable energy, battery storage, eMobility and strategic venture capital solutions to public and private clients. ..."
"KoBold Metals is a rapidly growing Silicon Valley start-up using AI to enable the transition to electrification and help solve climate change. We are backed by Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a16z, Bond Capital, Sam Altman, T Rowe Price, and other premier VCs. ..."
"Established in 2005, Climate Interactive is rooted in the fields of system dynamics modeling and systems thinking. Through this lens, and in partnership with the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, we create and share tools that help people see connections and drive effective and equitable climate action. Climate Interactive hosts a team of system dynamics modelers who create user-friendly climate simulators—spanning topics ..."
Ecosystem Services Market Consortium
"ESMC is a non-profit that works to compensate farmers and ranchers who improve the environment through their agricultural practices. Our market program reduces greenhouse gases, improves water quality, and increases other ecosystem services to benefit society. ESMC was formed in May 2019 and became a stand-alone non-profit in 2021. Our mission is to advance ecosystem service markets that incentivize farmers and ..."
"Granular is a fast-growing climate tech startup developing a platform to help electricity consumers, producers and suppliers move towards 24/7 clean energy. Our SaaS platform gives our clients visibility over how electricity was produced on each hour using hourly energy certificates and allow them to trade clean energy with each other. You can find out more about the 24/7 energy ..."
"Spark Climate Solutions is a new non-profit catalyzing the creation and scaling of climate solution ecosystems in relatively neglected problem areas, through strategic roadmapping across disciplines to identify and derisk roadblocks before they're hit, research roadmapping to identify high potential research ideas to fund, and building new projects and non-profit spinouts to fill gaps in each ecosystem. ..."
"CarbonBuilt's core technology emerged out of the Institute for Carbon Management at the University of California, Los Angeles . Led by third-generation civil engineer Gaurav Sant, the UCLA team demonstrated that dilute CO2 streams such as those from industrial emissions could be cost-effectively converted into concrete using widely available low-cost and low-carbon materials. In early 2021, the UCLA CarbonBuilt team ..."
"We are an Agri-tech company that develops innovative, scalable and sustainable solutions to secure a safe and sustainable supply of animal protein. We currently focus on greenhouse gas emissions and food safety/overuse of antibiotics. ..."
"We created a new green employee benefit called a Carbon Savings Account ™ (CSA), structured similarly to a health savings account (HSA). Instead of using the funds for eligible healthcare expenses, employees use the funds for eligible home technology upgrades that reduce their utility bills, and therefore their carbon footprint. Scope Zero is an investment vehicle that can scale residential ..."
"wasted* is developing circular sanitation infrastructure that transforms human waste into safe and effective fertilizer. We’re starting by transforming the archaic portable sanitation industry (market size $17B) to make it better for users, operators, and the planet. 🌎💩 More information here 💩🌎 ..."
"Energy Innovation Policy & Technology is on a mission to mitigate climate change by promoting the most effective and equitable energy policies. Established in 2012 as a clean energy and environmental policy firm, the team continues to provide timely research and analysis on low-carbon energy policy options to policy makers, thought leaders, and members of the media. Our team focuses ..."
"Planet FWD is the leading carbon management platform for consumer companies to tackle climate change. Leveraging the largest LCA database for agricultural production systems in North America, the company helps brands to measure, reduce, and offset their carbon emissions. Planet FWD's core technology has robust Scope 3 emissions modeling capabilities, making them the best solution in the market for consumer ..."
"At South Pole, we work with businesses & governments across the globe. We help realise deep decarbonisation pathways across industries, based on a thorough understanding of climate risks and opportunities in specific sectors, as well as the highest emission reduction standards. ..."
"Our mission is to make strategic, market-rate investments with a focus on decentralized renewable energy projects and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) investment opportunities. These investments are designed to inspire and promote change in the way the world invests ...."
"Remora is an early-stage climate tech startup, t urning 2 million semi-trucks into carbon removal devices backed by Chris Sacca and Y Combinator. Our device captures the carbon emissions from semi-trucks. We sell the captured carbon dioxide to concrete producers and other end users, helping companies earn new revenue while meeting their climate commitments. To date, 38% of the Fortune Global ..."
"We are a passionate, hard-working, dedicated, and quick-moving team that are driven by the mission to save the planet. We believe we can make a difference in the battle against climate change by leading the carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) industry and expanding our like-minded team to help do just that. Carbon America is the first vertically integrated company in the ..."
"nZero is a 24/7 carbon management platform that gives NGOs, government agencies and organizations the accurate emissions data they need to reach net zero and make smart decisions that benefit the health of the planet. Unlike other carbon management offerings who rely on third-party data and opaque averages, nZero gathers accurate, first-party, contextual data into a comprehensive view, making it ..."
That's it for this week! Remember, you can always view thousands of more jobs on Climatebase.org.
👋 Get discovered. Complete your profile to be seen by hundreds of employers hiring on Climatebase.
🚀 Accelerate your climate career. Apply to join the Climatebase Fellowship.
🌱 Hiring? Post your jobs to reach tens-of-thousands of Climatebase users and over 30,000 weekly newsletter subscribers.
👋 New here? Subscribe!
❤️️ Share a link to this week's edition
🐦 Let's connect! Follow us on Twitter @Climatebase, and our co-founders @evandhynes and @jhardin925
In "This Week in Climate", we look at climate finance’s rocky ride across North America
In "This Week in Climate", we look at big news for the oceans, good and bad.
In "This Week in Climate", we look at how new IRA funds are rolling out.
Today in our climate news section, "This Week In Climate", we look at regenerative agriculture in the IRA.
Today in our climate news section, "This Week In Climate", we look at progress on alternatives to lithium-ion batteries.