At COP 23, UNFCCC parties agreed to address agriculture in the negotiation process.
The potential role of agroforestry in the achievement of climate goals is set out in an ICRAF study showing that most countries have prioritized agroforestry as one strategy towards achieving their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
In a climate-vulnerable country like Peru, agroforestry has a crucial role to play in adaptation.
A bright spot from this year’s annual global climate talks (COP 23) was an agreement by UNFCCC parties to address agriculture in the negotiation process, a decision that ended a long-standing stalemate that hindered progress on agriculture for years.
With this decision, both the technical (Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, SBSTA) and implementation (Subsidiary Body for Implementation, SBI) bodies within the climate change negotiation framework are required to address key issues in a joint process linking climate change and agriculture. Countries have until March 2018 to make submissions on issues to be included in the joint discussions.
Drawn from previous discussions, issues likely to make the list of negotiations range from soil health and carbon, adaptation, adaptation co-benefits (mitigation), to improved nutrition, food security, water, and livestock management. If this process leads to a policy framework by 2020, there will be increased prioritization of resources towards the production and availability of knowledge, technical, methodological, and financial resources needed for effective action relating to agriculture and climate change.
Even as this process moves forward, countries can begin to take appropriate measures for agriculture to fill the ever-growing food demand from increasing populations and help meet the targets on zero hunger of the second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 2), while contributing to tackling climate change (SDG 13). One such measure of great potential is the use and management of trees on farms, i.e. agroforestry.
A study released by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) at the UN Climate Change Conference shows that agroforestry covers about one billion ha of land worldwide, with experts estimating that the carbon storage potential in these agroforestry systems can offset an equivalent of 20 years of emissions from deforestation. Further evidence shows that agroforestry contributes to microclimate and water regulation, supports biodiversity conservation, improves soil fertility, and helps diversify nutrition, significantly contributing to food security. This potential role of agroforestry is set out in more detail in a recent ICRAF study titled, ‘How Agroforestry Propels Achievement of Nationally Determined Contributions.’ The study shows that most countries have prioritized agroforestry as one strategy towards achieving their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
Peru is a case in point. In a side event at this year’s UN climate talks, co-hosted by ICRAF, Peru’s Minister of Environment, Elsa Galarza, presented the innovative, multi-sector and multi-stakeholder approach the country is implementing. Peru’s systematic process for implementing its NDC includes embedding climate action in public policy through the promotion of a Framework Law on Climate Change, currently awaiting approval. A Multi-Sectoral Working Group (MWG-NDC), with representation from 13 ministries and the National Center of Strategic Planning (CEPLAN), coordinates the processes led by each sector. Key steps include the identification and validation of mitigation and adaptation options, the definition of general guidelines and sectoral roadmaps for their implementation, the development of the MRV, and formalization processes.
Peru’s highly inclusive process will enable the country to harmonize action and legislation on climate change, and allow for seamless linkages and contributions towards other strategic agendas, particularly the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the development of a Green Growth Strategy, needed to support the country’s admission to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
With Peru being one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, its NDC efforts for adaptation will focus on agriculture, water, fishing and aquaculture, forests, and public health. With respect to mitigation, the sectors with high greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and with highest potential for mitigation action are: land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF); and the agriculture and energy sectors. It is envisaged that by 2030, mitigation efforts based on national circumstances and capacities will result in a 20% reduction in GHG emissions, with a further 10% conditional on international support.
Valentina Robiglio, an ICRAF scientist based in Peru, has been closely involved in the identification of options for mitigation and adaptation in family farmers’ production systems in the Peruvian Amazon. “Peru’s NDC includes four agroforestry-based interventions across the agricultural and forest sectors,” she pointed out in her address at the event. She also noted how their actual contributions to the NDCs are multiple. She said that, “These include measures that contribute directly to carbon stocking capacity, e.g. the planting of trees and living fences in silvipastoral systems on degraded pastures, as well as the use of previously deforested areas for the establishment of coffee or cocoa agroforestry. Beyond the enhancement of carbon removals when systems are established on degraded pastures, emissions from deforestation are also reduced, and this is a strategic target for Peru.”
In a climate-vulnerable country like Peru, agroforestry also has a crucial role to play in adaptation. In the case of coffee, for example, lower altitude producers are currently suffering from the severe drought and changing rainfall patterns, threatening 40% of currently suitable areas. Careful design and management of shade levels can significantly reduce risk and enhance resilience.
According to Robiglio, the multiple benefits can be derived only from full integration of agroforestry in Peru’s NDC efforts. This would involve incorporating agroforestry in agricultural and forestry sub-sectors in a more systematic way. A legal definition of agroforestry should be provided and applied to the agricultural sector and not just to the forest sector as it is now. This would enable formal recognition of vital, but currently underappreciated, role of trees in agriculture. She also underlined the importance of such issues as finance access, tenure and land rights. “In Peru, the implementation of agroforestry concessions, as provided for in the Forest Law (Ley 29763), offers a highly promising mechanism for harnessing agroforestry to achieve multiple benefits, including reduced deforestation.”
Climate action is increasingly a country-led and country-driven process. Through the NDCs, each country can articulate how they contribute towards targets set out in the Paris agreement. A multisector-stakeholder approach like the one taken by Peru permits linkages to and synergies with other development efforts and processes such as the SDGs, and allows contributions from various sectors to be efficiently maximized. As illustrated by the Peruvian experience and by global tendencies documented in ICRAF’s policy brief, the opportunities that agroforestry offers to address both climate change and other facets of the international development and environmental agenda are increasingly being recognized and acted upon.