A Missing Link in Climate Change Policy

By Bruce Campbell, Director CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)

Later this month, the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change holds its first meeting, bringing together top policy-connected scientists from around the world. Over its ten-month tenure, the international Commission will come up with specific policies and actions needed to secure food for all in an increasingly uncertain climate.

Climate change is probably the single greatest threat to future growth in agriculture. How successfully developing countries cope with it, starting now, will determine to a large degree whether they can feed their people, reduce poverty and maintain social stability as the global population climbs to nine billion by 2050.

Scientists readily acknowledge that there is still much uncertainty surrounding their estimates of expected climate change impacts in agriculture. But one point on which they entirely agree is that agriculture is highly vulnerable even to a two-degree, or low-end, rise in average temperatures.

Many studies now suggest that crops, livestock and biological diversity will all be profoundly affected by rising temperatures and other changes. For developing country farmers, this often means lower yields and incomes as a result of increasingly severe weather, changing rainfall patterns, worsening water scarcity and sudden outbreaks of diseases and pests.

Last year’s flooding in Pakistan, for example, damaged food storage containers while encouraging a growing threat to food safety from a burgeoning population of poisonous fungi. Threats such as these are compounded by rising food prices, which can contribute to civil unrest, as we have recently seen in Tunisia.

Science also points to possible solutions. Rural peoples are beginning to receive seasonal climate forecasts, for example, while innovative insurance schemes are helping them to manage the climate risks they already face. And researchers have identified new ways to help farmers address growing demand for food in the coming decades despite climate change, while significantly reducing agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, which account for about 12% of the global total.

The sheer variety of perspectives on the best ways to adapt agriculture to climate change and reduce emissions while boosting carbon storage in the soil has resulted in a confusing mix of messages, which are leading to inaction or, worse still, the wrong actions.

We need new approaches for sharing knowledge and tools between scientists and decision makers at all levels, including farmers and the organizations that represent them. The idea is to make science more comprehensible and to involve all key actors in decisions about how its results are interpreted and used.

As a start toward identifying solutions that hold the most promise, the CCAFS program is launching the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, to come up with the specific policies and measures that must be taken to boost food production, reduce poverty and cope with climate change in agriculture.

The Commission’s unique mission is to identify the actions needed to address climate change and achieve sustainable agriculture and food security, by building upon existing knowledge. It will focus on specific policies and actions that move beyond general calls for action; it will focus on the food security of poor people. Given its composition of senior and internationally-recognized scientists, it also has the opportunity to provide a clear set of policy findings based on science, and link between national and international policy processes in the agricultural and climate sectors, and beyond.

Their findings, expected by December 2011, should provide welcome guidance for translating scientific knowledge into action.


The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) is a strategic partnership between the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP). The 10-year program aims to overcome the additional threats posed by a changing climate to achieving food security, enhancing livelihoods and improving environmental management.

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change is supported by CCAFS and the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development.

For more information about CCAFS and the Commission, please visit www.ccafs.cgiar.org

Spotlight Cancún: Opening the door for agriculture at COP16

This article is by Nathan Russell, Senior Communications Officer for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. It was originally posted on the CGIAR blog

The post reviews agriculture and food security issues that, to the chagrin of many observers, slipped from the texts that ultimately constituted the Cancún Agreements. By the same token, it reminds us of the topics that still need to be tackled in the UNFCCC’s future work - in order to safeguard the world’s its food supply under a changing climate, while helping its porrest people adapt to these changes and develop their rural economies.


The mutual dependence of climate security and food security was the clear message from Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010, held on December 4 in parallel with the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place at Cancún, Mexico.

These words are only now starting to resonate with climate change negotiators. Hopefully, actions will speak louder than words. Just from the event’s plenary session, it was clear that many countries are already actively seeking ways to achieve the “triple win” of stronger food security, more rapid growth in agricultural productivity and enhanced carbon capture, while also making farming more resilient in the face of climate change.

Mexico, for example, is doing its part by pursuing a series of concrete measures, such as the promotion of conservation agriculture, for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The country has set ambitious goals for progress on both fronts by 2012, including emissions reduction in agriculture of 7.83 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to Ignacio Rivera Rodríguez, Sub-Secretary for Rural Development in Mexico’s Secretariat for Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food.

Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Chair and Vice President of Sustainable Development, World Bank, cited further examples of decisive action, such as the spread of Evergreen Agriculture in Africa. These and further cases, presented by speakers from China and other countries, demonstrate impressively how climate-smart farming practices are already being put into practice.

A statement resulting from Agriculture and Rural Development 2010 called for many more initiatives of this kind, with emphasis on efforts to help the rural poor adapt to climate change impacts and on the use of climate finance to realize agriculture’s substantial potential for capturing carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Participants in the event also came to grips with the thorny issue of how agricultural intensification can be made compatible with the reduction of deforestation. Several speakers stressed that to promote rather than undermine this aim, efforts to produce more from less land must form part of a larger package of interventions aimed at encouraging better use of already deforested land, reduced waste of food and agricultural inputs, and clear definition of tenure rights for farming and forest communities.

The lively roundtable discussion on this issue, which continued in a Learning Event held at Forest Day 4, represented an important step toward a more integrated approach through which the agriculture and forestry sectors can jointly pursue their shared goal of finding triple-win solutions that matter for the poor and the planet.

In order for such an approach to thrive, however, it is essential that climate negotiators heed the call from Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010 for various steps, including explicit recognition of the critical links between agriculture and forestry and the creation of an agricultural work program under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological  Advice (SBSTA) as a first step toward the inclusion of food security in any post-2012 agreement.

Agriculture footnoted in Cancún Agreements

COP16 President Espinosa and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres moments after the gavel fell


Delegates at the COP16 climate change talks approved an outcome package, dubbed the “Cancún Agreements”, early Saturday morning. 

Acclaimed by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres as having “reignited” faith in the climate change talks, the agreeements scarcely mention agriculture. 

Agriculture and food security are included in a footnote, in the Outcome of the work of the Ad Hoc Working Group on long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention, as areas deserving priority consideration in projects and programmes for enhancing action on adaptation.  In addition, no decision on a work programme on agriculture under the Subsidiary Body for Technological Advice (SBSTA) was rendered. 

Support for developing countries 

The agreements do however go some way towards helping developing countries meet the climate change challenge, including through finance, technology and institutional support to underpin their adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Key point include agreement on:

  • The provision for $30 billion in fast-track financing, and plans to create a $100 billion fund by 2020, to help developing countries cope with climate change and reduce emissions from deforestation.
  • A process to design a Green Climate Fund under the Conference of the Parties, with a board with equal representation from developed and developing countries, is also established.
  • The set up of a registry to record and match developing country mitigation actions to finance and technology support from industrialised countries. Developing countries are to publish progress reports every two years.
  • Establishment of a new “Cancún Adaptation Framework” to allow better planning and implementation of adaptation projects in developing countries through increased financial and technical support, including a clear process for continuing work on loss and damage.
  • Strengthening the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism to drive more major investments and technology into environmentally sound and sustainable emission reduction projects in the developing world.
  • Establishment of a technology mechanism with a Technology Executive Committee and Climate Technology Centre and Network to increase technology cooperation to support action on adaptation and mitigation.


The complete outcome documents are available here: http://unfccc.int/2860.php

Agriculture text imperiled as negotiators begin late-night attempt to reach deal

A draft text of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA), to be fine-tuned for eventual adoption by COP16 in a matter of several hours, omits all text on agriculture.

Draft text on agriculture under the section on Cooperative Sectoral Approaches had been at an advanced stage and looked poised for inclusion in the AWG-LCA outcome document just 24 hours ago.

With a number of small technicalities still to be agreed in the AWG-LCA text, COP 16/CMP 6 President H.E. Mrs. Patricia Espinosa this evening urged negotiators to work through the night to reach compromise.

Her statement received a standing applause from delegates, who had gathered in expectation of hearing the final verdict on Cancun’s outcome.

The 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) to the UNFCCC had been scheduled to wrap up this evening. It now looks likely to continue into the weekend.

Farmers’ to COP16: Decisions on agriculture are possible

The following is a transcription of the statement of the Farmer’s Constituency at the conclusion of the high-level segment of COP16. The statement was delivered earlier today by Dyborn Chibonga, Chief Executive Officer, National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM).

As a representative of the Farmer’s constituency, it is a pleasure for me to present the farmers’ viewpoint.

We have been witness this year to a variety of extreme weather events.  Floods, droughts and fires have devastated agriculture land and had a tremendous impact on the lives and livelihoods of rural people in all of our countries, the majority of whom are farmers.

The events have made it clear that local and global food security is an issue that needs to be addressed now.  

Agricultural adaptation to climate change will play an essential role if we are to address these food security challenges and empower farmers throughout the world, particularly women farmers.

Some countries and organizations have already started addressing this serious challenge.

They recognize the tremendous contribution agroecological, sustainable agriculture can have in their countries, providing stable food supplies, feed, fibre, energy and ecosystem services.

Now is the time to make these negotiations effective and relevant.   The agriculture sector gives you a genuine balanced package as adaptation, mitigation and food security can all be addressed through good decisions by you.

For immediate and essential impact focus fast track funding and other financing instruments on supporting the adaptation fund and other adaptation initiatives that focus on farmers.

An agricultural text has been negotiated.  If this process is to remain relevant to food security needs, this text should be adopted so the SBSTA work program can begin.  Farmers must be included at all levels during the development of this work program. 

Farmers encourage you to focus on what is achievable.  Decisions on agriculture are achievable.  There is no climate security without food security and there is no food security without climate security.

Thank you

Agriculture text poised for success

A draft text on cooperative sectoral approaches, which now includes a section on agriculture, is poised to be passed on for adoption tomorrow by the 16th Conference of Parties (COP16).

As the sun set over Cancun on Thursday evening, all tracts of text mentioned as “options” in a comprehensive draft published late Tuesday evening had been un-bracketed.

Despite stong feelings of some countries towards references to “trade” in the text, parties were positive that an agreement on the section dealing with agriculture could be reached - in time for adoption before the end of the conference.

Work programme on agriculture within reach

Parties to the UNFCCC are expected to adopt a proposal for a work programme on agriculture when they reconvene tomorrow, on the final day of the international climate change talks.

Negotiators consulted Thursday said there was little likelihood of impasse preventing adoption of this item at this stage.

The work programme would be set up under the subsidiary body for scientific and technological advice (SBSTA).

Governments would have until March 2011 to make submissions on its content, and implementation of the work programme would begin in June.

These deadlines could be extended to August and December 2011 respectively, if text requesting the SBSTA to establish a work programme on agriculture in the current draft on cooperative sectoral approaches is adopted.

Climate change threatens food security, warns head of Food and Agriculture Organisation

Extreme weather patterns witnessed around the world this year reveal the correlation between climate change and food security, said FAO Director General Jacques Diouf today, pointing out that crops destroyed by floods, drought and fire had caused higher food prices in several countries.

“Climate change is making food security goals more difficult to achieve,” he said.

Diouf was speaking at a press conference at the climate change negotiations in Cancun.

Part of the problem, part of the solution

Diouf also highlighted the agriculture sector as an important contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but one with significant mitigation potential.

Together, agriculture and forestry, including land use change, account for 30.9% of total global GHG emissions. Agriculture itself contributes 13.5% of this total, or 6.6 gigatons of CO2 equivalent per year.

Referring to what he called the “other face of the problem”, Diouf underlined that appropriate measures, including the use of sustainable agricultural production, carried the potential to reduce agriculture’s overall emmissions by 83-90%.

Webcast: FAO press conference // COP16, Cancun // 9 December 2010 @ 12:30

World leaders announce roadmap for action on agriculture, food security and climate change

A group of global leaders and policy makers called today for agriculture to play a key role in the architecture of climate finance, announcing at the Cancun climate conference a new initiative to make agriculture part of the solution to climate change and not part of the problem.

The “Roadmap for Action: Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change” outlines concrete actions linking agriculture-related investments and policies with the transition to climate-smart growth and highlights a “triple-win” approach.

Speaking at the high-level event, World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick advocated for an approach that would deliver on the oft-cited “triple-win”.

“We know what we need to do to achieve that elusive triple win”, he said. “A number of countries are already making real progress, but the immediate challenge is making sure that financing flows in the right directions – so far only 2% of flows have gone to Africa.  We must ensure financing gets to countries with the strategies for increasing food productivity, building food security, and addressing climate change.”

Other high-level participants included Cao Duc Phat, Minister of Agriculture, Vietnam; Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, USA; Erik Solheim, Minister of Environment and Development, Norway; Tabaré Aguerre, Minister of Agriculture, Uruguay; and Jacques Diouf, Director-General, UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The event was moderated by Hans Hoogeveen, Director General, Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Netherlands.

View the press release here: http://go.worldbank.org/3SYJZL2PN0

Agriculture advances in new draft text on cooperative secotral approaches

Agriculture appears under its own heading in a new draft text on cooperative sectoral approaches, produced late last night by the drafting group on enhanced action on mitigation.

The draft text gives agriculture its own distinct section, and proposes several tracts of text.

The new draft represents an important development from earlier versions, in which agriculture had been lumped together with international aviation and shipping. The latter now also enjoys its own section in the draft text.

The drafting group, formed over the weekend to develop the text on cooperative sectoral approaches, was due to meet again today to further advance the new draft.