Climate resilient agriculture hot topic at international climate summit

The recent international Climate Adaptation Summit’s (CAS) anchoring event on agriculture and food systems delivered a clear case for focusing on food security as the world recovers from Covid-19 and continues to be impacted by climate change.

CAS 2021, held from 25-26 January and hosted by the Netherlands, convened global leaders and local stakeholders for a virtual event that saw the launch of a comprehensive Adaptation Action Agenda, setting out clear commitments to deliver concrete new endeavours to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

The anchoring event Rising to the Challenge of Adapting Agriculture & Food Systems saw leaders from around the world argue for increased attention on developing climate-smart agriculture and food systems in a world impacted by climate change.

Acknowledging the huge toll climate change has on farmers, especially in low- and middle-income countries, the event called for heightened research efforts, innovation and climate finance to ensure the world’s agriculture and food systems, and those who work in them, are better able to withstand climate shocks.

“The opportunity is now”

Dr Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit and President of AGRA (Growing Africa’s Agriculture), opened the session by outlining three priorities for ensuring a climate resilient future:

  • Increased support for small hold farmers that depend on agriculture for their livelihoods
  • Building resilient food systems
  • Ensuring that progress towards SDG 1 and 2 (goal to end poverty and hunger, respectively) does not continue to undermine livelihoods for the most vulnerable, including women and children

She called investing in resilience ‘a huge payoff’, noting that building resilience returns far better outcomes than supporting people to rebuild their livelihoods only after climate damage has occurred.

With the Food Systems Summit, COP26 and biodiversity COP on the horizon, she called 2021 the ‘super year of engaging around climate change’.

“We cannot pass climate change onto the next generation – the opportunity is now and the time is now. We need to make it a race to zero and a race to resilience – we have two twin problems we must solve. Our generation has the biggest opportunity of a lifetime,” she said.

A roadmap to resilience

Rodger Voorhies, president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Growth & Opportunity Division, focused on the case for investing in adaptation.

Having worked alongside Bill Gates on the Global Commission for Adaptation, he commented: “Even as we work to reduce emissions we need to mount a massive effort to build resilience in vulnerable communities.

“The Commission has shown us that if we do so it will bring enormous economic, social and environmental benefits, especially true for investments focused on small hold farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.”

He noted that farms in these regions supply about 80 percent of the region’s food, and small holder farming is the main source of income for about a billion people, many of whom are women.

“If we do nothing to help farmers adapt, climate change could reduce crop yields around the world by up to 30 percent,” he said. (Ed: see the projections for the impacts of climate change on crop yields, by the end of the century, in the IPCC’s 2014 synthesis report, figure SPM9.)

He called for more support for smallholder producers to help them cope with climate change, noting that according to the OECD only 7 percent of concessional development finance for climate goes to agriculture.

“Investing in adaptation is therefore critical to the Covid recovery, especially where agriculture is the dominant economic activity. If we are truly committed to pandemic recovery then we should be committed to developing more sustainable, resilient, climate-smart food systems.

“We need to address climate stress that is hitting communities right now but with systems and assets that can be useful for decades,” he said.

Mr Voorhies also called for increased investment in agricultural research and innovation: “Investing in adaptation is also an opportunity to build greener, more sustainable approach to food production. Developing an R&D roadmap for resilience would be a great way to generate the global partnerships we need to accelerate action on climate adaption.

He commended the UK’s efforts in advance of COP26 to drive a strong focus on scaling up financing for agriculture research.

Channelling climate finance to deliver local impact

In a panel discussion on climate finance, moderator Monika Froehler, CEO of the Ban Ki-moon Centre for Global Citizens, noted that climate shocks already threaten the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people, many of whom depend on small hold agriculture, and delivering adequate finance to address climate impacts is critical.

Dr Sinead Walsh, Deputy Director General and climate envoy for the Government of Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs, called on international governments to band together to address what she called the ‘disgraceful figure’ of just 10 percent of climate finance reaching the local level.

Dr Walsh flagged the LDC Initiative for Effective Adaptation and Resilience (LIFE-AR), an LDC-led, LDC-owned initiative which aims to inform the development of adaptation plans, identify immediate priorities that will further build national institutions, domestic systems and capabilities, and further define NAPs, NDCs and wider national efforts to build resilience and address poverty.

“We’re really keen to encourage a collaboration of donors to get behind the initiative to move that figure from 10 percent to 70 percent,” she commented.

“We talk a lot in climate finance about how much is being spent but we need to talk a lot more about how that money is spent. We need to think about how we support the coalitions that are locally developed and locally led.”

Michael Sheldrick, Chief Government Affairs Officer at Global Citizen, outlined the institute’s 5-point plan for people and planet to recover from Covid-19 better and together, which it is encouraging governments, philanthropists and the private sector to rally behind.

He identified climate action as critical to this plan: “As well as ending the pandemic for everyone, rebooting climate action through the Paris Agreement is going to be critical.

“What’s going to be especially important is making sure this year is a year of action for farmers on the frontline.”

You can catch up on the agriculture and food systems event here. All events from the Summit can be viewed on CAS TV.

Image courtesy Flickr: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development

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