Enhanced research key to effective mitigation and adaptation

Isabel Lopez Noriega of Biodiversity International poses a question.

As one of the only sectors that can “put carbon back in the ground”, agriculture is part of the solution to climate change. But Roundtable Five concluded that maximizing farmers’ potential to sequester greenhouse gas emissions and thrive in a hotter and wetter world requires additional research into quick and cost-effective mitigation and adaptation activities.

Lead speaker Louis Verchot, an environmental services scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), underlined the immediate need for new research. “As the policy processes get rolling, we as a research community need to look how we can better inform the process … both inside and outside the UNFCCC,” he said.

Verchot called on researchers to look at “synergies and tradeoffs between mitigation and adaptation and development with respect to food security, water security, energy security, biodiversity, and poverty eradication” and focus on “lower-cost mitigation options for agricultural emissions and for the enhancements of sinks.” He also stressed the need for research on benefits schemes, value chains, real-time MRV schemes, early warning systems, best management practices, and institutions. He added that researchers should devise ways to better-integrate voices from indigenous and local groups into national decision-making.

Leopold Some, senior researcher in agroclimatology at Burkina Faso’s Environment and Agricultural Research Institute (INERA) contributed to the research wish list from the point of view of Sub-Saharan African farmers. He called on research that addresses adaptation to seasonal cycles and the enhancement of and access to agriculture tools. Wendy Mann, a consultant with the Global Crop Diversity Trust, emphasized the need for interdisciplinary research that focuses on “climate-smart agriculture.”  Finally, Steven De Gryze, the managing director of Terra Global Capital LLC, provided the private sector viewpoint. He called for research on contacting farmers in cost-effective ways, and on the uncertainty around scientific results, for reflection back to the market.

In sum, Roundtable Five emphasized the following policy actions and knowledge gaps:

Policy actions

  1. Policy approaches need to address the potential for synergies between adaptation and mitigation in a way current frameworks fail to do;
  2. Extension services need to be safeguarded, expanded and funded to address the adaptation of livelihoods to climate change;
  3. Both adaptation and mitigation to climate change will require funding for interdisciplinary research that seeks to understand farmers as well as farming.

Knowledge gaps

  1. Current scientific and indigenous knowledge is not properly accessible and extended to farmers and policy makers at all levels;
  2. Without research into new, cost efficient and widely applicable approaches to non-CO2 GHG mitigation in agriculture, the sector’s climate impact will remain high;
  3. Local knowledge about responses to climatic variability is an underused resource for the development of adaptation strategies, particularly with respect to extreme events.

According to Verchot, the need to extend knowledge to farmers on the ground is key. “All this information is coming out and circulating through the scientific community clearly isn’t having an effect on the real world,” he said.   “Beyond just putting together the scientific evidence, we need to work at communicating  – we need to engage policymakers, we need to engage with the NGO community that’s doing activities on the ground,  we need to engage with groups that are allocating resources. We need to actually get the developing community to use the results of these scientific analysis and let that spur action.”