By Sunny Lewis
BONN, Germany, November 21, 2017 (Maximpact.com News) – New commitments and initiatives in the agriculture and water sectors were announced as nearly 200 countries gathered at the United Nations Climate Conference (COP23) hosted by the government of Fiji in Bonn, November 6-17.
Delegates made concrete progress on turning the historic 2015 Paris Agreement into action on the ground across the world, ahead of next year’s UN climate conference in Katowice, Poland.
COP23 delegates aimed at motivating greater climate action by public and private stakeholders as the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, enables countries to combat climate change by limiting the rise of global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and strive not to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.
About one degree of that rise has already happened, increasing the pressure on governments and the private sector to progress further and faster to cut the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
For the first time in the history of UN climate negotiations, governments reached an agreement on agriculture that will help countries develop and implement new strategies to both reduce emissions from agriculture and build resilience to the effects of climate change.
“Agriculture is a key factor for the sustainability of rural areas, the responsibility for food security and its potential to offer climate change solutions is enormous,” said Christian Schmidt, Germany’s federal minister of food and agriculture.
Investing more quickly and broadly in agricultural climate action and to support the sustainable livelihoods of small-scale farmers will unlock much greater potential to curb emissions and protect people against climate change, sector leaders and experts said.
New COP23 initiatives include a US$400 million fund established by the Government of Norway and the corporation Unilever for public and private investment in business models that combine investments in high productivity agriculture, smallholder inclusion and forest protection.
The European Investment Bank will provide US$75 million for a new US$405 million investment program by the Water Authority of Fiji. The plan will strengthen resilience of water distribution and wastewater treatment following Cyclone Winston, the world’s second strongest storm ever recorded, which hit Fiji in February 2016.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development signed up to free US$37.6 million of GCF grant financing in the US$243.1 million Saïss Water Conservation Project to make Moroccan agriculture more resilient.
The nonprofit World Resources Institute announced a landmark US$2.1 billion of private investment to restore degraded lands in Latin America and the Caribbean through Initiative 20×20.
“Climate change is a fundamental threat to the Sustainable Development Goal 2 that aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition,” said José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at a high-level event on hunger at the conference.
“To achieve SDG2 and effectively respond to climate change, we require a transformation of our agriculture sectors and food systems,” he said.
According to FAO’s “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017” report, hunger has grown for the first time in over a decade, mainly due to conflicts and climate change. An estimated 815 million people are now hungry.
Extreme climate impacts come down hard on small-scale farmers and pastoralists as well as fishing and forest communities, who still provide the bulk of the planet’s food.
Supporting these communities with innovative solutions to reduce their emissions and protect their communities meets many of the objectives of every one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Over 70 percent of the world’s extreme poor live in rural areas. They are also the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, natural resource scarcity, conflict, and climate impacts.
“The rural poor are part of a comprehensive response to climate change,” said da Silva. “They are key agents of change who need to be strengthened in their roles as stewards of biodiversity, natural resources and vital ecosystem services.”
Requests to direct more resources to the agriculture sector as a key strategy to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were made during Agriculture Action Day November 10.
“Countries now have the opportunity to transform their agricultural sectors to achieve food security for all through sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change,” said René Castro, FAO assistant-director general.
In the livestock sector, for example, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.
At COP23, the FAO released a new “Sourcebook on Climate-Smart Agriculture,” which recommends scaling up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, spurring public-private partnerships, strengthening a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue, investing in knowledge and information, and building capacity to address barriers to climate action.
The book features knowledge and stories about on-the-ground projects to guide policymakers and program managers to make the agricultural sectors more sustainable and productive, while contributing to food security and lower carbon intensity.
The COP23 meeting agreed that land needs to be managed in ways to increase soil carbon, particularly in grasslands, and that robust protocols for assessing and monitoring carbon stocks need to be developed with stakeholders.
Rehabilitating agricultural and degraded soils can remove up to 51 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, according to some estimates.
For the livestock sector, FAO estimates that emissions could be readily reduced by about 30 percent with the adoption of best practices.
Tom Driscoll, director of conservation policy with the U.S. National Farmers Union, says, “Farming is one of the few professions with the ability to not only reduce ongoing greenhouse gas emissions, but to also remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. National Farmers Union supports policies and programs that maximize agriculture’s GHG elimination potential by offering value to farmers for either climate-smart or emissions-reducing and carbon-sinking production and conservation practices.”
Cap-and-trade programs, which limit ongoing emissions from major sources of greenhouse gas emissions, are one means of offering farmers value for climate-smart practices.
Cap-and-trade programs can drive emissions reductions where they can happen in the most cost-effective manner, and farmers can often achieve emissions reductions and sequester atmospheric greenhouse gases for less money than the emitters these programs primarily regulate, says Driscoll on the NFU website.
The state of California has implemented a cap-and-trade program that allows for the creation and transfer-for-value of offset credits that meet regulatory criteria. Regulated entities may meet up to eight percent of their triennial compliance requirements by purchasing these credits.
In California, each credit must be quantified using a compliance offset protocol approved by the California Air Resources Board. Currently, ARB will approve credits some U.S. farmers create by capturing and destroying methane from manure management systems.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), an organizer of COP23’s Agriculture Action day, announced that the Coalition will work in the next few years to create the conditions for greater agricultural climate action.
The voluntary partnership of more than 100 governments, intergovernmental organizations, businesses, scientific institutions and civil society organizations aims to help give countries the confidence to set realistic yet ambitious targets through the next revision of their national climate plans – the Nationally Determined Contributions.
“Agriculture is a large source of powerful greenhouse gases like methane and other short-lived climate pollutants but has great potential to store carbon and reduce greenhouse gases in our lifetime, that’s why we support and advocate for countries to improve their livestock emissions inventories,” said Helena Molin Valdes, head of the CCAC Secretariat.
CCAC partners signed onto the Coalition’s Bonn Communiqué which prioritizes initiatives to reduce methane and black carbon emissions from agriculture and municipal solid waste.
These initiatives support broader efforts to reduce air pollution, end hunger, and build sustainable cities and communities, while helping to limit global warming.
James Shaw, New Zealand Minister for Climate Change, said he was pleased with the Communiqué’s focus on agriculture as it was a large source of his country’s greenhouse gases.
“We hope this encourages partners to develop policies to reduce emissions from agriculture, while at the same time improving the productivity, resilience and profitability of farmers,” said Shaw.
Other agriculture-based solutions for addressing climate change were also presented at COP23. Discussions involved people from governments, civil society, the private sector, small scale and young farmers centered on livestock, traditional agriculture systems, water, soil, food loss and waste, and integrated landscape management.
Among the recommended actions and initiatives were to:
- Scale up public and private climate finance flows to agriculture, and use them in a catalytic manner. Climate finance flows continue to favor mitigation over adaptation, and focus overwhelmingly on energy systems and infrastructure. These imbalances should be addressed.
- Incentivize public-private partnerships. Strong dialogue and collaboration between the public and private sectors is key to ensure alignment between public policy and private sector investment decisions in agriculture and throughout the entire food system.
- Strengthen a multi-sector and multi-stakeholder dialogue towards more integrated approaches to landscape management. This will require enhanced coordination of policy and climate action across multiple public and private entities.
- Invest in knowledge and information. Additional analyses are needed to better identify the institutional barriers and market failures that are inhibiting broader adoption of climate-resilient and low-emissions agricultural practices in individual countries, regions and communities.
- Build capacity to address barriers to implement climate action. Agricultural producers require additional capacities to understand the climate risks and vulnerabilities they face, and respond accordingly.
In the water sector, most national climate plans with an adaptation component prioritize action on water, yet financing would need to triple to US$295 billion per year to meet such targets, said experts at COP23.
“Sustainable use of water for multiple purposes must remain a way of life and needs to be at the center of building resilient cities and human settlements and ensuring food security in a climate change context,” said Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, president of the Women for Water Partnership.
The international water community co-signed what it called a “nature based solution declaration” to encourage the use of natural systems in managing healthy water supplies.
Around 40 percent of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2050, accelerating migration and triggering onflict, while some regions could lose up to six percent of their economic output, unless water is better managed, warned Verhoef-Cohen.
She said, “Involving both women and men in decision making and integrated water resources initiatives leads to better sustainability, governance and efficiency.”
Featured Image: G.H. MUMM champagne 2017 harvest in champagne vineyard near Verzenay, France, September 7, 2017 (Photo by Intercontinental Hong Kong) Creative Commons license via Flickr