23 November 2016
COP 22 Agriculture and Climate Update: Improving Food Systems’ Resilience while Mitigating Climate Change
UN Photo/Mark Garten
story highlights

The triple challenge of sustainably increasing agricultural production while making it more resilient to the impacts of climate change and reducing emissions from agriculture was an important theme at COP 22, and reflected in several events and new initiatives.

The Agriculture and Food Security Action Event featured the launch of three initiatives for agriculture adaptation in Africa, sustainable water management, and urban food policy, while other initiatives focused on strengthening South-South cooperation for African countries and small island developing States (SIDS).

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched the first assessment agriculture adaptation values.

19 November 2016: Agriculture is both a source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and particularly sensitive to the impacts of climate change, making it a priority field for adaptation and mitigation action. In light of this dual role and the urgency to improve resilience in agriculture for food security, COP 22 was marked by numerous events, discussions and initiatives on the triple challenge of increasing agricultural production in ways that are both more sustainable and resilient to climate change while reducing emissions.

Agriculture and Food Security Action Event

Held on 16 November 2016, this thematic event was presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the Government of Morocco as part of the Global Climate Action Agenda. In a high-level segment and several panel discussions, participants discussed the challenges and opportunities of adapting agriculture to climate change for food security. Three major initiatives were presented: the Agriculture Adaptation Africa (AAA) Initiative; the FAO Global Framework for Coping with Water Scarcity; and the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFPP). Other sessions took stock of existing initiatives and results, and considered: agriculture and food security in the context of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); ecosystem approaches for increased resilience; integration across the landscape and value chain; sustainable water management in agriculture; and climate finance for agriculture and food security. [UNFCCC Press Release][FAO Press Release] [IISD Reporting Services Summary and Video]

The AAA initiative aims to reduce the vulnerability of agriculture in African countries by supporting actions that improve soil and water management, risk management and financing solutions. According to the AAA White Book, the initiative builds on two main pillars: advocacy to secure financing for African agriculture adaptation projects; and the promotion of innovative solutions that respond to top priorities in African countries. The initiative places agriculture adaptation at the heart of efforts to achieve many SDGs, noting that resilient agriculture provides benefits for the broader economy. The implementation of the AAA Initiative was further discussed during a side event organized by the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). [AAA Press Release][AAA White Book] [CCAFS Press Release]

FAO’s ‘Global Framework for Action to Cope with Water Scarcity in Agriculture in the Context of Climate Change,’ aims to support innovation in adaptation to water-scarce conditions by supporting countries in their efforts to integrate climate change action and sustainable water use in their agricultural policies and NDCs. It also aims to stimulate cross-sectoral dialogue and enhance capacity and sharing of experiences and knowledge in addressing the climate-water-food-energy nexus. Building on FAO’s previous initiatives on water scarcity, the Global Framework is a call for international partners to: contribute to two working groups on knowledge and innovation, and policies and investments; contribute to sharing of knowledge and analysis of lessons learnt; support partners in developing and prioritizing transformational projects addressing water scarcity; facilitating collaboration among partners; and sharing successful experiences so that they can be replicated in other countries. By assisting partner countries in mobilizing funding, the Global Framework aims to scale up and accelerate action on adaptation to water scarcity. [FAO Water Webpage]

Launched at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, Italy, the MUFPP aims to engage cities around the world in the development of sustainable food systems that improve access to healthy food to urban citizens, biodiversity protection and food waste reduction, while adapting to and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Among other actions, MUFPP seeks to encourage: interdepartmental and cross-sector coordination at municipal and community levels; integration of urban food policy considerations into social, economic and environment policies; coherence between municipal food-related policies and programmes and relevant subnational, national, regional and international policies and processes; and participation of all stakeholders in the formulation, implementation and assessment of all food-related policies, programmes and initiatives. To date, the pact has been signed by the Mayors of 130 cities around the world. [MUFPP Home Page]

Understanding the Economics of Agriculture Adaptation

While the dual role of agriculture as a source of emissions and as vulnerable to the impacts of climate change is recognized in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs) of most countries, there has to date been very little analysis of the economic returns of mitigation and adaptation action in agriculture. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) report, titled ‘The Economics Advantage: Assessing the value of climate change actions in agriculture,’ aims to fill this gap by presenting an economic analysis of investments under NDCs and related climate plans and other economic evidence regarding investments in agriculture and food security under conditions of climate change. Produced jointly by IFAD and the CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the report concludes that the overall returns on IFAD’s investments in agriculture adaptation for farmers and government agencies is between 15% and 35%.

Specifically, the assessment of IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture (ASAP) Programme shows that for any dollar invested, farmers could earn a return between US$1.40 and US$2.60 over a 20-year period. These returns are generated through adaptation actions such as: adopting improved practices in the production of major stable crops; mainstreaming iterative risk management; and building adaptive capacity at the farm level, including on practices that reduce emissions intensity of production in several agricultural sub-sectors. Other activities that can support these measures include: capacity building, institutional strengthening, finance services, extension and research, policy and legal frameworks, and programme management. The report also notes that while most NDCs are well aligned with national development plans so that both adaptation and mitigation contribute to development objectives, they need to be more ambitious in order to collectively meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. [IFAD Press Release] [The Economics Advantage: Assessing the Value of Climate Change Actions in Agriculture]

Strengthening South-South Cooperation

FAO announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the South Centre to support countries in the Global South in addressing poverty, hunger, climate change and achieve sustainable rural development through enhanced South-South cooperation. Initially valid for five years, the MOU focuses on activities that promote sustainable management of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations, support the building of resilient rural livelihoods, and apply more sustainable agricultural practices including organic and agro-ecology farming. The South Centre is an intergovernmental organization that promotes South-South cooperation for sustainable development. [FAO Press Release] [FAO Work on South-South Cooperation][South Centre Webpage]

FAO also launched a project that will support agriculture adaptation in small island developing States (SIDS) in Africa through its Africa Solidarity Trust Fund. The project will focus on training and knowledge exchange with regard to climate-smart practices, such as growing adapted crops with nutritional value, innovative ways to improve fishing, and developing markets for sustainably-produced products. The project will be implemented in Cape Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Seychelles. The Africa Solidarity Trust Fund is a country-led initiative for Africa focusing on strengthening food security by assisting countries and regional organizations in actions to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, eliminate rural poverty and manage natural resources in a sustainable manner. [FAO Press Release][Africa Solidarity Trust Fund Webpage]

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) reported a success story in adaptation of Moroccan agriculture supported by its Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF). The SCCF was established in response to a decision taken at COP 7, held in 2001 in Marrakech. COP 22 thus marked the 15th anniversary of the SCCF. One of the many projects supported by the SCCF was the ‘Plan Maroc Vert,’ which aims to help vulnerable populations adapt to climate change. Under the plan, the SCCF funded the purchase of direct seeding equipment that allowed farmers to reduce soil labor. This improves soil moisture retention, which in turn makes agriculture more resilient in a region where climate change is affecting precipitation patterns. As a result, yields in the area have increased 50% in wet years and up to 100% in dry years, as improved soil moisture management prevent crop failures under extreme weather conditions. According to the GEF press release, these results are an example of the many successful projects implemented under the Moroccan Green Plan that were supported by the SCCF. The SSCF continues to support countries’ efforts through adaptation projects and technology transfer, under the guidance of the UNFCCC COP. It is the only fund open to all vulnerable developing countries and supports a wide variety of climate related activities. [GEF Press Release][GEF Project Documentation][SCCF Website][Website of the Plan Maroc Vert (in French)]

A Different Perspective …

Taking a different approach, an initiative put forward by three famous chefs starts where all products of sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture should eventually end up: on the dinner plate. The #Recipe4Change Contest challenges people around the world to share their most sustainable and most delicious recipes. Conceived by Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, three brothers who are famous chefs in Spain and goodwill ambassadors of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the contest will launch a new challenge every month until the end of 2016. Every month, the creator of the winning recipe will have the opportunity to prepare the food and dine with the three chefs. The chefs will also share tips and techniques for reducing the impacts of their meals on the environment. The contest is carried out with the support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG Fund). [SDG Fund/UN/UNDP Press Release][Recipe4Change Website][Recipe4Change Challenge #1: Climate Change]

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