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Climate Smart Agriculture

It’s Time to Make Agriculture ‘Climate-Smart’

Juergen Voegele's picture

 Tran Thi Hoa/World Bank Group

For those plugged into the climate change conversation, land use and “climate-smart agriculture” (CSA) are hot topics, especially in the lead up to September’s UN Summit on Climate Change.

There is tremendous urgency in moving this agenda forward. We are now beyond discussing whether we need sustainable intensification. To enhance food security in the face of climate change, we will need agriculture systems that are more productive, use inputs more efficiently, and are more resilient to a wide and growing range of risks. This will mean changing the way land, soil, water, and other inputs are managed. But because agriculture varies from place to place, and climate change will impact each location differently, climate-smart agriculture needs to respond to local conditions. It is not a one-size-fits-all approach to agriculture, but rather a framework to be applied and adapted – a paradigm shift in thinking and action.

On the occasion of the release of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the Mitigation of Climate Change last week, I had an opportunity to hear from some of the leading experts and policymakers and to zoom in on one of CSA's three goals, along with increasing productivity and building resilience: meeting global food needs with lower emissions.

Unfortunately, global agriculture systems have a long way to go before they can be considered sustainable by any reasonable standard. And we are certainly far away from being a sector that has a reduced or low footprint: The way we manage our agricultural landscapes globally produces a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture poses a bigger emissions problem than transport and other sectors that are traditionally viewed as the big emitters.

Treading Water While Sea Levels Rise

Rachel Kyte's picture
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 UNFCCC/Flickr

At the UN climate talks that ended wearily on Saturday night in Warsaw, negotiators showed little appetite for making firm climate finance commitments or promising ambitious climate action. But they did succeed, again, in keeping hope alive for a 2015 agreement.

The final outcome was a broad framework agreement that outlines a system for pledging emissions cuts and a new mechanism to tackle loss and damage. There were new pledges and payments for reducing deforestation through REDD+ and for the Adaptation Fund, however the meeting did little more than avoid creating roadblocks on the road to a Paris agreement in 2015. In one of the few new financial commitments, the United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States together contributed $280 million to building sustainable landscapes through the BioCarbon Fund set up by the World Bank Group.

At the same time, COP19 was an increasingly emotional Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The overture to this round of climate drama was provided by Typhoon Haiyan. Haiyan added, sadly, more to the mounting evidence of the costs of failure in tackling climate change. The language is inexorably moving towards one of solidarity, of justice. But for the moment, this framing is insufficient to prevent emission reduction commitments from moving backwards.

And yet again, as was the case in the climate conferences in Cancun, Durban, Doha, and now Warsaw, outside the official negotiations, there is growing pragmatic climate action driven by climate leaders from every walk of life.

The sense of urgency and opportunity is building, it just fails to translate into textual agreement.

What Did Durban Deliver: Part 2

Andrew Steer's picture

Getting On With It.

The 194 national negotiating teams earned their salaries in Durban. But well over half of the 20,000 at the meeting weren’t negotiators at all. What were they up to?

Some were reporting and some were protesting, but most were busy sharing best practices, doing deals, presenting new technologies and findings, and urging negotiators to “get on with it”. They included hundreds of technology firms, financiers, NGOs, academics, development professionals and governments.

The message from this group was: There’s a world of action out there that’s growing and vibrant. It will continue, but to reach the required scale, governments and negotiators must provide a regulatory environment that is transparent, predictable, and consistent.

From Forest Day - The No-Regrets Option

Rachel Kyte's picture

After Agriculture Day, comes Forest Day for about 1,200 scientists, donors, NGOs, policymakers, journalists and climate negotiators gathered in Durban, with its own well-oiled choreography of plenary sessions and discussion forums.

My assigned role during these two days is to act as a go-between and help break down the silo mentality that can affect expert communities working on narrow themes. Many people already seem to be reading from the same music sheet –there is growing recognition that the fate of forests and agriculture are intricately linked.

Agriculture (large and small) is one of the main drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in many parts of the world. And growing needs for food, energy and income will continue to exert tremendous pressure on the forest “frontier” in the future.

Forestry and agriculture experts concerned by climate change seem to be reaching for broadly symbiotic solutions at the landscape level – climate-smart programs based on a more complete understanding of the carbon and water cycles that sustain both agriculture and forests.

Forest Day, now in its fifth year, always timed to coincide with UNFCCC talks, can take great credit for publicizing carbon emission research and putting forests on the map of climate change negotiations.

Saturday in Durban was agriculture day, and focus was on Africa

Rachel Kyte's picture

Over 500 farmers representatives, scientists and development practitioners were out in force today at the third Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) in Durban. They are determined to put agriculture on the COP 17 agenda.

Their arguments are clear: Any serious effort to reduce green house gasses must include agricultureAnd COP 17 is the chance for Africa to shape the agenda and establish an agriculture work program that is informed by science and covers adaptation and mitigation. And even for some `No agriculture, No deal'.

And today these voices are being heard.

Three years ago there was very little discussion around agriculture and climate change…this year agriculture events are everywhere around the COP. 

Climate-smart agriculture – that’s agriculture that combines proven conservation agriculture techniques with the latest technologies like drought and flood tolerant crops, better weather forecasting and risk insurance for farmers – is gaining momentum.

People are paying attention because climate-smart agriculture delivers a triple win – increased productivity, increased adaptation and mitigation benefits.

Agriculture is being reimagined.

Africa stands to benefit most from climate-smart agriculture because of the vulnerability of rural people to climate change and the dependence of so much of the population on agriculture. And for Africa, adaptation is key.

Facts, knowledge and women, trump myth and superstition

Fionna Douglas's picture

When scientists from a broad range of disciplines get together to discuss research to feed the world, while protecting the planet in a changing climate, it’s not surprising that they would call for increased investment. More surprising is that they would agree on setting clear priorities.

The World Bank co-organized the Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture in Wageningen, Netherlands, with Wageningen University and The Netherlands Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation as part of its efforts to build the store of knowledge that can help small holder farmers around the globe increase productivity – a central theme of the Bank’s Agriculture Action Plan – and build resilience to climate change. The conference will also inform the upcoming global climate change negotiations in Durban, South Africa.

Motivated by the statement of UK Chief Scientific Officer Sir John Beddington that the world is unlikely to make the changes required to limit global warming to 2 degrees centigrade, and is heading for a “4 degree centigrade world with disastrous implications for African food security”, the scientists heeded policy makers’ pleas and delivered some clear evidence-based advice.