COP22 missed low-hanging fruit in the agricultural sector.
By Faris Ahmed & Geneviève Talbot
PUBLISHED by Hill Times: Wednesday, January 11, 2016 12:00 AM. See original article here.
The Paris Agreement set the stage in 2015: agriculture and food matter to climate change. The Committee for World Food Security sent the same message to the world during its October meetings, that the climate is changing, so should our food. Agriculture was one of the important issues to be discussed at the UN climate change conference in Marrakech late last year, COP22, the “COP of action.” What happened?
Agriculture is strongly linked to climate change. Agricultural production is responsible for 11 to 13 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is the second major emitter globally, after the energy sector. The agricultural production impact on global warming varies depending on the agricultural model applied. Industrial agriculture and small-scale family farming are not on an equal footing when it comes to GHG emissions. The effects of global warming are not comparable either, since small-scale family farming is mainly practised in countries most affected by climate change. Those differences must be reflected within climate negotiations. Unfortunately, at COP22 they were not.
In fact the negotiation on agriculture collapsed at COP22 with parties being unable to reach a common agreement. The Group of 77 developing countries asked for investment in adaptation measures while developed countries, through a European Union proposal, talked about mitigation (and not adaptation) measures. It was a deaf dialogue. The future of agriculture negotiations within the formal set-up of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change remains uncertain.
This void leaves an interesting space for Canada to be a leader in the next agricultural negotiations, to be held in May 2017.
While the negotiation collapsed, other private initiatives in the agricultural sector flourished during the second week in Marrakech. The 4 per 1000 initiative, as well as Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA), and the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, which is headed by Canada, are some examples of solutions in the agricultural sector that are proposed by states and corporations from the agri-business sector in order to fight climate change.
We welcome new initiatives, but it is important to remind political leaders that in the fight against climate change, the agricultural model and agricultural practices that are promoted matter. World Bank figures show that small-scale family farmers—almost 1.5 billion people, including 500 million landless peasants—represent more than half of the world’s labour force. In the Global South, small family operations make up about 85 per cent of all farms and produce 60 per cent of the food consumed worldwide, while occupying only 20 to 30 per cent of arable land.
Development and Peace-Caritas Canada and USC Canada are asking the Canadian government to be a true leader in the fight against climate change and to financially support small-scale ecological agriculture practised by hundreds of millions of small-holders farmers. This kind of farming is based on agricultural biodiversity and time-tested knowledge of that biodiversity. It strengthens communities’ resilience and ability to cope with climate shocks, giving them more options to respond, as well as enhancing their capacity to maintain a diverse food supply and build rural economies, stay on the land, and feed their families.
So far, Canadian investments in climate finance schemes are not enough. Canada has not reached a balance between adaptation and mitigation funding, which is strange for a country that has proclaimed itself as a climate leader.
There is no better investment in development than through agriculture, as it yields benefits across many other aspects of development: food security, health and nutrition, economic growth, environmental sustainability, and gender equality (as the majority of the world’s small-scale farmers are women), in addition to climate adaptation and GHG reduction.
The World Bank estimates, for example, that investing in agriculture is highly cost-effective, and at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as other strategies. That’s why we are asking the Canadian government to increase its financial support for small-scale ecological farming through its climate finance.
If Canada takes seriously its international engagement on climate change, this means that we should be active in the agricultural scene and work with the more than 500 million small-holder farmers in Africa and around the world. Their direct role in adapting to and mitigating climate change cannot be overlooked, and in fact is essential to finishing the race.