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.
Agriculture and Rural Development
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.
Tôi đang đứng bên bờ biển tỉnh Bến Tre ở Đồng bằng sông Cửu Long của Việt Nam. Tôi đang tự hỏi rằng liệu mấy tháng nữa liệu tôi còn có thể đứng đây được nữa hay không.
Mời các bạn hãy nhìn ra phía biển khoảng vài trăm mét, chỗ đó trước đây 3 năm vẫn còn là đất canh tác. Trong vòng 3 năm trở lại đây, ấp này đã mất khoảng một nửa diện tích đất đai. Vấn đề biển xâm thực chỉ là một trong những thách thức cam go mà nhà chức trách và người dân vùng Đồng bằng sông Cửu Long phải giải quyết.
I am standing on the shore of Bến Tre Province in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. One of the first questions is, would I be able to stand here in a few months’ time?
If you look just a few hundred meters out to sea, that was cultivable land up to three years ago. In the last three years this village has lost half of its land. Sea incursion is just one of the complex challenges that the authorities and the people who live in the Mekong Delta have to juggle at the same time. So the Mekong Delta, the decisions that are made here are affected by the upstream decisions of hydroelectric planning, irrigation, and other freshwater use. By the time the water gets here, some of that freshwater which is needed is no longer available.
When President Barack Obama announced that the United States would cut CO2 emissions from its coal power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, he didn’t just talk about climate change – he was equally forceful about the local benefits that the regulations could bring. He stressed that those regulations would reduce pollutants that contribute to soot and smog by over 25 percent, reductions that could avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths and 150,000 asthma attacks in children; and that the regulations would build jobs, benefit the economy, and be good for the climate.
Demonstrating the value of multiple benefits that result from many policies and projects can provide a compelling economic rationale for action. It can speak to broad constituencies, local and global, and demonstrate the climate-smart nature of good development. A new report prepared by the World Bank in partnership with the ClimateWorks Foundation – Climate Smart Development: Adding up the benefits of actions that help build prosperity, end poverty and combat climate change – sets out to do just that.
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.