Where Can We Find the Finance for a Food Systems Transformation?
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A food systems transformation will be central to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs.

The interlinked Goals of poverty reduction (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2), improved health (SDG 3), gender equality (SDG 5), sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12) and climate action (SDG 13) can all be tackled by improving the way we farm and eat.

A COP 24 side event on the theme, ‘Food Systems Finance Advantage,’ outlined options for unlocking finance to achieve this transformation.

A food systems transformation will be central to achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs. The interlinked Goals of poverty reduction (SDG 1), zero hunger (SDG 2) and improved health (SDG 3) – along with the Goals relating to gender equality (SDG 5) and sustainable consumption and production (SDG 12) – can all be tackled by improving the way we farm and eat.

SDG 13 (climate action) can also be tackled in this way. The agriculture sector accounts for up to 29 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, yet options exist that can reduce the sector’s carbon footprint while producing enough nutritious food for our growing population.

This transformation, however, will require financing. But how can sufficient funds be unlocked? At a side event on the theme, ‘Food Systems Finance Advantage,’ held during the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC, experts convened to debate available options.

In his opening remarks, Martien van Nieuwkoop, Director, Agriculture Global Practice, World Bank, noted that much support could come from public funding, but it needs redirecting. “To mainstream and scale up climate-smart agriculture (CSA) we need climate-smart public support,” he said.

“Governments across the world currently give half a trillion dollars a year in direct and indirect agricultural subsidies each year, but those do not necessarily generate the best environmental outcomes. So, redirecting those agriculture public support programmes could really go a long way to mainstream and scale up climate smart agriculture,” van Nieuwkoop highlighted.

He cited the example of the EU, which has successfully re-oriented public funding to generate better environmental outcomes. Since the implementation of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions from fertilizers dropped 17 percent, yet yields increased 28 percent.

Bernhard Stormyr, Head of Sustainability at Yara, highlighted that the private sector also has a major role to play. “The private sector can drive change, because we can drive efficiencies,” he said. Investing in the promotion of precision farming, he argued, will have better environmental outcomes than simply subsidizing fertilizer.

Another example of how Yara is investing in “business unusual” is in the development of a zero emissions autonomous ship to transport fertilizer that will take 40,000 trucks off the road each year.

Blending finance from a range of different actors could be another pathway to funding a food systems transformation. Angela Falconer, Climate Policy Initiative, introduced the Global Innovation Lab for Climate Finance, which works on this basis. The Global Innovation Lab has served as the incubator and model for regional Labs including the India Innovation Lab for Green Finance and Brasil Innovation Lab for Climate Finance. Successful instruments to date include offering attractive loans to cattle ranchers in Brazil, encouraging them to make use of degraded lands and comply with Brazil’s Forest Code, and using the cattle itself as collateral.

Margarita Astrálaga, Director of the Environment, Climate, Gender and Social Inclusion Division, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), advocated for farmers to also be included in the development of innovative financing options. “We need public-private-producer partnerships,” she said.

“If we want to make a change, we need to change the direction the money flows, it is as simple as that,” said Marjolijn Sonnema, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Netherlands, in her closing remarks. “Time for talking about “if” and “when” transformation is needed is over, the time for action on the ground is now,” she said.

COP 24 convened in Katowice, Poland, from 2-14 December 2018. The side event was co-organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the World Bank, the Government of the Netherlands and SNV.

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The article was written by Marissa Van Epp, Global Communications and Knowledge Manager, CCAFS.


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