SDG Knowledge Weekly: Connecting Climate Change to Food Security, Sustainability and Nutrition
Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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Climate Chance launched the first report of the Global Observatory of Non-State Climate Action, while the Global Carbon Project released its ‘Carbon Budget 2018’ report.

Devex, the International Food Policy Research Institute, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, and European Commission explore food and agriculture issues in light of climate impacts; the World Resources Institute launched a global synthesis of the World Resources Report on creating a sustainable food future.

A paper published in Global Sustainability looks at how floods and droughts can impact beyond food security in a paper titled, ‘Business experience of floods and drought-related water and electricity supply disruption in three cities in sub-Saharan Africa’.

With the international community’s eyes on Poland for the 24th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 24) to the UNFCCC, this issue of the SDG Knowledge Weekly links climate reports launched in the margins of COP 24 to issues of food security and sustainability, nutrition and energy.

Highlighting efforts to combat “climate fatalism,” the NGO Climate Chance launched the first report of the Global Observatory of Non-State Climate Action. The report is split across three thematic books on sector-based action, mobilizing local and sub-national governments, and bringing the finance sector onboard. The report’s summary notes that: countries that have established carbon taxation schemes have generally seen the best results on climate action; biofuels and land use must be thoroughly analyzed; and a special focus on Africa is needed (as some of other the knowledge products in this brief also consider).

Findings from the Global Carbon Project’s ‘Carbon Budget 2018’ report paint a bleak picture of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Highlights from the report note that emissions from fossil fuel have continually increased, and in many regions will continue to grow. An article in The Guardian notes that the scientists who produced the report (76 in total, from 57 research institutions) found that the continuing increases were driven in part by more coal burning in China and India. A more detailed write-up of the report on the SDG Knowledge Hub is forthcoming.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) recognizes that ambitious efforts to control GHGs are urgently needed, but decisionmakers and readers should act with caution to avoid “a significant near-term downside risk for food security.” These impacts would be felt most acutely by poor and vulnerable populations in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The IFPRI article, based on a paper developed with 12 other institutions from the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP), notes that carbon taxes and increased reliance on bioenergy can increase competition for land and other resources that put pressure on food availability and prices. To combat these impacts, IFPRI calls for safety net programs and other targeted schemes to be introduced alongside climate mitigation policies.

A Devex Q&A with Jeremy Oppenheim, Systemiq, discusses challenges posed by climate change to African agricultural systems, the majority of which are smallholder farms. The article notes that the agricultural sector contributes to 70% of regional gross domestic product (GDP), but climate impacts are expected to reduce crop yields and can cause a spike in food prices in the region. Solutions and ways of mitigation the problem, Oppenheim says, include “driving up the share of irrigated agriculture; increasing mechanization; and, in certain places, beginning to re-consolidate some of the holdings.” He notes that using digital technologies and improving on “precision farming” becomes increasingly important in the context of climate change.

The World Resources Institute (WRI) launched a global synthesis report of the World Resources Report. Titled, ‘Creating a Sustainable Food Future: A menu of solutions to feed nearly 10 billion people by 2050’, the synthesis considers cost-effective scenarios for meeting food, land use, and GHG emissions goals in 2050 in ways that can also help alleviate poverty without exacerbating water challenges. It notes that doing so will require closing three main gaps – on food, land and GHG mitigation. Thus, the report features recommendations on ways to: 1) reduce growth in demand for food and other agricultural products; 2) increase food production without expanding agricultural land; 3) protect and restore natural ecosystems; 4) increase fish supply; and 5) reduce GHG emissions from agricultural production.

The report also collates the findings of a multiyear partnership between WRI, the World Bank Group, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD), and the Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA). Summarizing the report’s “five-course menu of solutions” towards a sustainable food future, a WRI blog features 21 key charts and infographics that highlight the scope of the issue as it relates to climate change and food security. They visualize the resource intensity of various types of foods, where food loss and waste occurs in food supply chains, and where and how growing seasons in Africa will change as climate impacts intensify, among other topics covered by the report.

The European Commission launched a Knowledge Centre for Global Food and Nutrition Security. Led by the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), the new platform will serve as a reference point for scientific data and publicly-accessible briefings, interactive maps, databases and reports aimed at identifying priority areas for EC action in addition to horizontal synergies within the EC and its external partners. Topics include resilience to food crises, agroecology, climate extremes and food security, nutrition and marine issues, among others. The JRC also oversees knowledge centers on the bioeconomy, territorial policies, migration and demography, disaster risk management, and food fraud and quality.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) also released a variety of publications in the leadup to COP 24. The reports and papers review FAO’s work on climate change, the state of food security and nutrition vis-à-vis climate resilience, agricultural commodity markets, the state of the world’s forests, climate smart agriculture, the impacts of climate change on fisheries, and how to take on climate change through livestock management, among other topics.

Floods and droughts have the potential not only to affect a region’s food security, but also its ability to generate electricity. A paper published in Global Sustainability’s first volume finds that even “fairly moderate precipitation anomalies” can have a major impact on a city’s economic activity. The paper titled, ‘Business experience of floods and drought-related water and electricity supply disruption in three cities in sub-Saharan Africa during the 2015/2016 El Niño,’ recommends that addressing the risk of disruption be a development priority in the region, especially given that the 2015/2016 El Niño event was not considered extreme and that climate change will further-increase both impacts and uncertainties. Research was led primarily by researchers from the London School of Economics.

Additional issues of the SDG Knowledge Weekly can be found here.

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