Food, Farming and Countryside Commission

Land Unlocked: Optimism & story-telling

By Jane Campbell

13th June 2021

In the first of our #LandUnlocked podcast series, podcast host ffinlo Costain speaks to Christiana Figueres, a key architect of the 2015 Paris Agreement and founder of the Global Optimism group, and Professor Tim Jackson, Director of the Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity and a Commissioner of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission.

Looking forward to COP26 and how global leaders deliver real change, they discuss the importance of narrative for society and at a diplomatic level, and how changing the narrative around land, and land use, could unlock climate action.

Read on for extracts from the podcast and reflections from host ffinlo Costain - or listen now.

What they said

Why the need for urgent action?

“The fact is, we cannot afford to go over 1.5, because the level of physical, economic and biodiversity destruction, but above all the level of human misery and pain, is such that we can’t even conceive it from where we are right now.” - Christiana Figueres

Why is it important to talk about land?

"We have seen quite a lot of progress - on renewable energy generation, in where fossil fuels are going - [with the] big exception of land use. That is the Cinderella of this party - because we haven’t focussed enough on that.” - Christiana Figueres

“I was in a Bank of England seminar … and I listened to an economist talking about the role of agriculture in climate change quite seriously say ‘listen, don’t worry about agriculture, it’s less than 3% of the GDP’ - and that’s nuts, because food is the basis of our lives and our livelihoods, and agriculture is the basis for future prosperity. But an economics that doesn’t see that is out of its mind.” - Professor Tim Jackson

How does the way we talk about land change things?

“Who controls the narrative is a question ultimately of power, which is exactly why it’s important to go back to the narrative and change the narrative and put different narratives on the table. And the narrative of regenerative nature puts different people in power.” - Professor Tim Jackson

“We are constantly using oral history … it is a very compelling element of how we think about ourselves: who we are, how we show up in the world, what do we believe in and what do we believe we are capable of.” - Christiana Figueres

“People often think about optimism and hope as being the antidote to despair, but I think actually the antidote to despair is action.” - Professor Tim Jackson

Our podcast host reflects

Land Unlocked podcast host ffinlo Costain reflects on the conversation with Christiana and Tim:

COP26 is an opportunity to shift the dial on land use. This discussion focusses on the danger of replacing an intensive model of food production with an intensive programme of climate mitigation. Land use is complex and cannot be solved using the linear, top down investment models that have characterised low carbon delivery for energy and transport.

“We conclude that to address climate change - while restoring biodiversity and delivering global nutritional security - we will need nuanced solutions, which reward a rich and diverse polyculture of farm and food businesses.”

Land Unlocked is a co-production between FFCC and the Farm Gate podcast, and you can subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Anchor, Spotify, Breaker, and Google Podcasts. Join us, and our podcast host ffinlo, in conversation on Twitter @ffc_commission and @ffinlocostain