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Moving agriculture further up the climate change agenda

June 1, 2015

Both part of the cause of climate change, but also part of the solution, agriculture is central to any debate on global warming and extreme weather events. However, a detailed treatment of agriculture has yet to enter any of the agreements linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Determined to change this situation, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is working with partners to move agriculture further up the climate change agenda. In the run up to the 21st session of the UN Conference of Parties for the Convention on Climate Change (COP 21), CTA is working with partners on a range of initiatives aimed at achieving greater prominence for agriculture in the negotiations.

The COP 21 talks, due to be held in Paris from November 30 to December 11, 2015, represent an important opportunity to shape the global climate agenda and ensure that food security receives greater attention. Like many organisations involved in agricultural development, CTA strongly believes that the COP 21 agreement should acknowledge the importance of agriculture for food security and livelihoods, and the role it can play in helping to meet global adaptation and mitigation goals. Financing for both agricultural mitigation and adaptation must be part of climate change policies, say CTA and its partners.

"Agriculture contributes to climate change, but it is also a victim. We need to look at some of the solutions that agriculture can offer for adapting to climate change and, in some cases, for mitigating it as well," said Olu Ajayi, senior programme Coordinator for agricultural and rural development policies at CTA. "Agriculture plays a fundamental role in food security, so if climate change problems are not addressed now, it will have serious implications for the future."

A voice for small-scale producers

As things stand, agriculture has been largely sidelined from international negotiations on climate change. Some progress was made at COP 17, held in Durban in December 2011, when agriculture was specifically mentioned in the UNFCCC text for the first time. But progress since then has been disappointing, say agricultural development experts.

As part of its campaign to ensure that agriculture has a place on the climate change political agenda, CTA has teamed up with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Farming First to produce a toolkit aimed at farmers' organisations, agricultural development organisations and negotiators. The recently revised Guide to UNFCCC Negotiations on Agriculture: Toolkit for Communications and Outreach, due to be launched in June 2015, offers a range of knowledge and communication tools to support outreach activities related to strengthening the position of agriculture within the climate change debate.

In a separate initiative, CTA is supporting African farmers' organisations linked to the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF) to organise consultation workshops designed to feed into regional submissions on climate change to be made by East African governments to the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice (SBSTA). This is one of two permanent subsidiary COP bodies charged with providing timely information and advice on scientific and technological matters. A SBSTA process launched in June 2014 allows for submissions to be made on agriculture and climate change over a period of two years, with the next ones due to be made at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, from June 1-11, 2015. In parallel to SBSTA, a meeting of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) will take place, marking the first formal text negotiations for COP 21.

“The idea of CTA helping to support these consultation processes is to make sure that farmers’ views and positions are well articulated in the submissions,” said Ajayi.

Focusing global attention on climate-smart agriculture

Other events planned by CTA include a proposed Brussels Briefing on agriculture and climate change, to be held together with CCAFS and other partners later this year, and a Pacific stakeholders’ meeting organised jointly with CCAFS, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and WorldFish, in Fiji.

The meeting will be attended by representatives of farmers' and fishers' organisations, as well as by policy-makers and negotiators. It will facilitate the building of future scenarios on climate change in the Pacific in collaboration with stakeholders in the region.

A recent call for proposals launched by CTA to document proven practices, tools or policies that promote resilience and help farmers address the challenges posed by climate change attracted more than 300 responses from countries of the European Union, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). After series of evaluations carried out by experts from EU and ACP regions, the most promising 15 cases have been selected and these have started to receive technical and financial support from CTA. The work has attracted great interest from various partners including the Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) and highlights the contributions of CTA and ACP partners as co-creators of knowledge in the domain of solutions to the challenges of climate change.

Climate smart agricultural practices can be an important approach for adapting to and mitigating climate change, helping to reduce poverty and increase food security as a result. CTA is a founding member of GACSA, launched in September 2014, and will be stepping up its involvement in the alliance as the COP 21 appointment draws closer. COP 21 is expected to mark an important milestone in climate change negotiations, paving the way for a new agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol – which commits signatory countries to limiting greenhouse gas emissions – when it expires in 2020.  

Africa300A booklet on climate smart agriculture (CSA) in Africa, jointly published by CTA and CCAFS, explores how this approach can build resilience against climate change and in some cases increase agricultural production. Evidence of impact: Climate-smart agriculture in Africa features a range of case studies and strategies, highlighting some of the most effective CSA practices being used across Africa’s diverse farming systems and climatic conditions. Case studies described include building resilience by developing better markets through value chains, managing forests that produce timber and non-timber products, planting trees to halt desertification, improve farmers’ lands and generate income from carbon trading and using conservation agriculture to increase rainfall capture and boost yields.