The COP 26 conference has continued with speakers – including a former US president who mixed up the Emerald Isle of Ireland and Scotland – issuing ever more dire warnings about the consequences of inaction. The potential of farming to help tackle the problem has yet to make it to centre stage. Instead the focus is on big ideas and big gestures that are a lot more costly and a lot less certain.

We see this through the prism of what is reported in the UK. That means a very narrow focus more about the problem and issues than realistic, practical solutions. To question this agenda brings the risk of being branded a heretic. But listening to the ever more dire predictions is a reminder of the famous English economist and cleric, Thomas Malthus. Back in the late 1700s, in his Essay on the Principle of Population, he warned of a dire future for mankind, because populations grow faster than the food supply. Much as is now said of climate change, he claimed the 'power of population was infinitely greater' than the ability of the earth to produce food. This prophecy of doom became known as Malthusian economics or the Malthusian trap.

Read more: Glasgow's COP26: was it a whole lot of hot air?

Mankind however escaped the trap because science and productivity in agriculture offset population growth. There has to be a sense that this will also be the case with climate change. The focus at COP 26 is on 2050 and it is beyond argument there is a problem to be tackled for the good of future generations. However in the decades to come science will exist that is not even being thought of now. It will bring new thinking and new solutions, just as agriculture responded to prove Thomas Malthus wrong and over gloomy.

Another lesson of the COP 26 event is that any deals that are emerging are being made between the major global trade blocs. The UK might be the host, but enthusiasm does not make up for the fact that with a small population nothing it does will impact a global problem.

Many of these deals are political window-dressing and the latest on agriculture between the United States and EU may be another example. The fact that this was concluded in time for the Glasgow event underlines that when it comes to trade and wider strategic interests, the US is more focussed on Brussels and other European capitals than London. This is why COP 26 brought the methane pledge agreed by Washington and Brussels and now what they are describing as a new 'transatlantic platform' in agriculture to tackle the challenges of sustainability and climate change.

This came in the form of a joint statement from the EU farm commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, and his US counterpart, Tom Vilsack. This could easily be dismissed as yet another aspirational announcement hitting the buzz words of sustainability and climate change. However just as agriculture proved Malthus wrong back in the early 1800s, the EU and US are now making much of the role science can play in tackling the issues linked to agriculture. The statement is a justification for the term sustainable intensification in agriculture. This is about smart productivity, but sadly in Scotland this is an area where politicians have allowed the green lobby to skew the debate. In no nonsense terms the EU and US make clear that 'science and innovation' will bring about a more sustainable agriculture.

This is a view that has US hands all over it, because the EU does not have a good track record when it comes to science in food and farming. This has been evident for years in how it has allowed a minority of member states to dominate the GM debate. It is also why the EU is lagging behind the UK when it comes to judgements about the way ahead for gene editing. But if the US is a cattle prod to push Brussels in the right direction, that could deliver the sustainable intensification needed for agriculture to make a meaningful impact on climate change.

In all the bluster from the government at COP 26, it would have been a boost for farmers if Westminster had delivered the conclusion the US/EU statement produced. “We must work together to devise systems and solutions that are good for agricultural producers, good for consumers, good for businesses, good for our communities, and good for our planet.” Common sense that was sadly lacking amidst Westminster political grandstanding at COP 26.