on 11th November 2016

The Morality of Advancing Agriculture in UNFCCC Negotiations

Reflections by Vitu Chinoko, Partnerships and Advocacy Coordination, CARE Southern Africa:

I come from Malawi where every year climate change impacts are felt deeply by poor and vulnerable communities.  There are various expressions of climate change in Malawi: floods, droughts, strong heat waves, etc. and all of them negatively threaten food and nutrition security, especially for poor people who did not contribute to the cause of the climate change.  The Malawi situation is true for most developing countries.

Agriculture is the main economic development driver for many of the most vulnerable developing countries, and lack of progress on agriculture negatively affects the socio-economic development of these countries. Finding sustainable solutions to the challenge of food and nutrition security due to climate change will have multiple co-benefits, including on the achievement of the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

According to UN FAO, without adaptation, wheat, rice, and maize production is projected to decrease in both tropical and temperate regions, which will affect the economies and development path of vulnerable countries

It is for this reason that virtually all African country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mention agriculture as a critical part of their adaptation efforts. Addressing agriculture and food and nutrition security is the critical need of those affected by the negative impacts of climate change. For vulnerable countries, failing to address agriculture and the impacts of climate change on food security would spell doom for their countries’ economic development and their citizens’ rights to development and food. The UNFCCC can play a key and constructive role in advancing learning and action in this regard.

The most vulnerable developing countries are perennially food insecure, and this is being worsened by climate change. It is important to recognize that this is their main motivation to include food security and agriculture in their climate action plans.

There are co-benefits of reducing emissions from agriculture (estimated at up to 30% of global GHG emissions). Achieving the goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5°C will require action in all sectors. Many developing countries have included agriculture in the mitigation section of their NDCs, and an opportunity to discuss and learn about opportunities to undertake more sustainable agriculture is welcome. At the same time, most vulnerable developing countries believe that efforts to reduce emissions in the agriculture sector must be led by the largest and higher emitting countries. For the most vulnerable, food security and adaptation must remain their primary concerns.

Implementation of the Paris Agreement should include the agriculture sector, and negotiations and efforts in this sector must put food and nutrition security at the core. It is critical that the UNFCCC processes focus on improving food and nutrition security in view of climate change, especially for small-scale women farmers who are disproportionately affected by adverse impacts of climate change.

Vitu Chinoko

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