Here’s something you may not be aware of:It’s a statistic that matters in the face of two unrelenting challenges now facing the globe –how to turn the promises of last December’s historic Paris climate change agreement into reality and how to feed a growing global population.
Agriculture and Rural Development
So, food systems are finally on the climate change map and embedded in the language of the Paris Climate Agreement.
This is a long way from the previous involvement of agriculture as a contentious area that was subject to fractious debate and fatally entwined with the discussion around climate-change related loss and damage. A vast majority of national plans to address climate change or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) presented at the COP in Paris contained language and commitments on agriculture – for both adaptation and mitigation measures.
What’s behind this change in sentiment and action?
The countdown is now well and truly onto to the Paris climate change talks in France.
A key factor in the talks will be the national plans, known as the INDCs - Intended Nationally Determined Contributions – submitted to the UN ahead of the Paris conference. They are important building blocks for reaching a final agreement.
Given that emissions from land use contribute significantly to climate change, it’s important to note many countries have included the land sector, which covers sustainable agriculture and forestry, as a key part of their approach to mitigating climate change.
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In the run-up to the COP21 climate conference, one question becomes central: where will we find the solutions on the ground—and the people to implement them—to realize the renewed political ambitions on climate?
Agriculture is central to feeding the world and reducing poverty.
But conventional forms of agriculture are often unsustainable and drive land degradation. Agriculture is also the world’s leading anthropogenic source of methane (52 percent) and nitrous oxide (84 percent) emissions, and the principal driver of deforestation worldwide. Agriculture and agriculture-driven land-use change contribute 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
We can’t fix what we don’t measure, which is why quantifying greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production is a necessary step for climate-smart agriculture (CSA). Greenhouse gas accounting can provide the numbers and data that are important to solid decision making.
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) tells us that to rein in climate change and keep global warming under 2°C, we will have to start reducing emissions now and get to near net zero emissions within this century.
That won’t happen without healthy forests and soil storing carbon, and it won’t happen without climate-smart land-use practices that can keep carbon in the ground.
Together, agriculture, forestry and other land use changes account for about a quarter of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The sector can be a powerful source of emissions, but it is also a powerful carbon sink that can absorb carbon dioxide, providing a pathway to negative emissions. The IPCC authors estimate that with both supply-side and demand-side mitigation efforts – including reducing deforestation, protecting natural forests, restoring and planting forests, improving rice-growing techniques and other climate-smart agriculture methods, changing diets, and reducing the immense amount of global food waste – we can effectively reduce a large percentage of emissions from the sector and increase carbon storage to move the needle toward net zero.
Over the next few months, governments worldwide will be preparing their national contributions to our collective need to combat climate change. These plans will form the foundation of a new international climate agreement to be agreed in Paris in one year’s time. Collective ambition matters now more than ever. We all have a responsibility to make the choices that will lower the risks created by decades of greenhouse gas emissions and usher in an era of job-rich, more-inclusive, cleaner economic development.
Scientists have provided us with a remarkable consensus. We believe that with this evidence, we have the strong foundation for action. That’s good news, because climate action has to scale up now.
This week and next at the UN climate negotiations in Lima (COP20), there is a sense that gridlock may be easing. The U.S. and China – the world's two largest emitters – set a strong pace last month when Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping stood together and jointly announced their top-line commitments for cutting emissions. Their pledges, along with commitments from the European Union and donor support for the Green Climate Fund, auger well for the Lima talks. But this was always billed as the finance COP, and how we finance the transition to deep decarbonization and lasting resilience requires a coming together that has eluded us to date.
“How do you engage a country that may not agree with your climate agenda?”
The question came last week, as I was sharing the findings of our recent report, Climate-Smart Development: Adding up the benefits of actions that help build prosperity, end poverty and combat climate change with students from the Williams College Center for Development Economics. I hope my talk answered her question. I pointed out that increasingly, decision-makers want to know if there are investment decisions they can make that address urgent development priorities and, at the same time, address the challenges of a rapidly warming world.
Three articles in the news this week reinforce the messages in our report and shed further light on the answer to her question. A pair of research papers point out that black carbon and ground-level ozone – air pollution associated with so-called short-lived climate pollutants, or SLCPs – are already reducing Indian agricultural yields by up to half, and that coal-fired power – a large source of air pollution including CO2 – is costing China 670,000 deaths each year. These are both prime examples of local development issues that present climate-smart investment choices. As governments search for solutions to their health and agriculture problems that are exacerbated by air pollution, they have two options: invest in smoke stack controls and other interventions that eliminate the air pollution causing crop loss and mortality, but keep churning out CO2, or invest in alternative energy sources and efficiency measures that will also reduce both forms of climate pollution.
By Valerie Hickey and Habiba Gitay
At the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity happening right now in Korea, there has been a lot of talk about adaptation. Most importantly, how can nature help countries and communities adapt to climate change?
Running from event to event to partnership dialogue here in the beautiful island of Upolu, Samoa, while listening to delegates to the 3rd annual Small Island Developing States Conference, two things ring loud and true: Small islands need ocean-based economic growth to diversify their economies, attract investment, grow their GDP, increase jobs, and end pockets of extreme poverty. And strong ocean-based economies need healthy oceans.
Great ocean states know this. They know that they cannot afford the boom and bust cycle that emerges as natural capital is liquidated and the ocean emptied and trashed. But small islands cannot forsake growth in the name of conserving natural resources either. We can fish the oceans empty; but we mustn’t. The future of growth, jobs, resilience all depend on the sustainable management of the resources of the ocean. For small islands, blue growth is critical; done smartly, blue collapse is avoidable.