This week, representatives from more than 120 nations are meeting in Lima, Peru for the UN Summit on Climate Change. The convention is the latest round of international negotiations hoping to address the impending threat of global climate crisis. While no agreement is expected to come out of the Lima convention, important and necessary steps must be taken in Lima if the participating countries hope to sign a binding agreement in December of next year when the next convention will be held in Paris.

The World Resource Institute has written that President Obama and Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, leader of the two most polluting nations, have signaled their clear intent to take ambitious action on climate change, and many developing countries, including Colombia, the Philippines, and Vietnam have expressed their readiness to act on climate change regardless of whether or not an agreement is reached by the UN. It seems that now more than ever there is international political support for an agreement to be made, but whether or not that agreement will actually lead to action by participating nations is unclear.

The last major agreement to mitigate climate change was the Kyoto Protocol agreed upon by the UN Convention on Climate Change in 1997. However, “the US sabotaged the effectiveness of the protocol by not signing on” (James Hansen, director of the NASA Goddard Space Studies Center).  The Kyoto Protocol, when signed, was a legally binding agreement that required developed countries to reduce carbon emissions by 5-7% by the year 2012, but it established no requirements for developing countries like China or India to reduce emissions. Gwynne Dyer, author of the bestseller Climate Wars argues that at the time less much less was known about the seriousness of the threats posed by global climate change, and the Kyoto Protocol was an immensely significant agreement.

The Guardian published an update from the Convention on Friday, and they’ve reported that the talks have not moved very far forward. The representatives have only come to an agreement over only one paragraph of text.

The Guardian writes that there is substantial disagreement over whether or not the United States and other developed countries should contribute financially to help poor countries deal with the effects of climate change. The US representatives firmly disagree, and developing countries are pushing the case for financial contributions. There is another disagreement over whether audits will be conducted to monitor the pledges of specific countries; China is opposed to any monitoring of this sort, but is not unique in this regard.

While the media is being drawn into the web of imperial bickering by the US and China, we are alarmed by the exclusion of small farmers and alternative systems of agriculture in these discussions. If the world is going to stem the onslaught of global climate change, developed and developing countries need to radically rethink and redesign their agricultural systems. We have previously published blogs showing one of the ways that this is possible, using the System of Rice/Crop Intensification.

Few people inside the UN Convention are calling out the global paradigm of industrial agriculture that is dependent on fossil fuels, factory farms, and the transportation of food across enormous distances. Even fewer representatives are taking seriously the point made by Miguel Altieri and Parviz Koohafkan that systems of agriculture based on small farmers using agroecological methods can both increase the global output of food and decrease the world’s dependence on fossil fuels. However, grassroots organizations meeting at the NGO forum outside the official meeting are taking small farmers seriously, although they have limited influence on the official meeting.

If these talks are going to really make a difference in the fight against climate change, UN representatives need to start thinking outside of the box, and even listen to the grassroots organizations giving talks away from the official meetings. They need to agree to get rid of the global industrial system of agriculture, step by step, and replace it with a more ecologically and socially humane system that is built around small farmers using agro-ecological methods.