Agriculture: A Call to Action for COP17 Climate Change Negotiators

Leading agricultural agencies have called for a Work Programme for agriculture under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). Photo: P. Casier, CCAFS.
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Release date

Monday, November 28, 2011

Today, a coalition of Agricultural research organizations, including the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the UN Food and Agriculture Agency, the UN World Food Programme, and others have called upon climate change negotiators to recognize the essential role of agriculture in the fight against climate change.

The call was issued as political leaders gather in Durban, South Africa, to decide on the future of a global climate agreement. The agriculture groups have also organized Agriculture and Rural Development Day on 3 December, a daylong event to share best practises on climate-smart agriculture and show how agriculture is part of the climate solution.

Full text of open letter:

Our world faces formidable challenges. The global population has now crossed the seven billion mark and is projected to reach nine billion by mid-century, requiring at least a 70 percent increase in agricultural production to meet increased demand.

The world’s resources are under more strain than ever before as global demand for water, energy and food is on the rise. At the same time, climate change threatens farmers’ ability to produce enough to meet growing demand, and poor communities’ ability to access nutritious food.

More frequent and extreme weather events are affecting our food supply, our infrastructure and our livelihoods. Last year, Russia suffered its worst drought in more than 100 years, triggering forest fires and destroying millions of hectares of crops. This year we have seen the Horn of Africa face its worst drought in 60 years as more than 13 million people requiring emergency food aid and pastoralists losing a third of their livestock. Recent flooding in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Cambodia has also impacted livelihoods and worsened food insecurity.

The most vulnerable regions of the world – developing countries – are disproportionately affected by climate change, despite contributing little to carbon emissions. People in developing countries depend heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods, yet are increasingly challenged in their ability to produce sufficient food for their families and for markets.

Whilst agriculture is a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, it has significant potential to be part of the solution to climate change. Preserving and enhancing food security requires increasing agricultural productivity whilst at the time adapting to and mitigating climate change. It also requires a shift towards building farmers’ and vulnerable communities’ resilience to climate shocks, and related food price volatility.

More productive, sustainable and resilient agriculture requires transformations in how rural people manage natural resources and how efficiently they use these resources as inputs for crop production. For these transformations to occur, it is essential that the world's farmers, scientists, researchers, the private sector, development practitioners and food consumers come together to achieve climate-smart agriculture.

Yet the agricultural sector remains astonishingly underfunded. As a percentage of total investment, agriculture has dropped from 22 percent in 1980 to approximately 6 percent today. In absolute terms, this constitutes a drop to roughly half of the funding allocated thirty years ago.

At the upcoming climate change negotiations in Durban, we call on negotiators to recognise the important role of agriculture in addressing climate change so that a new era of agricultural innovation and knowledge sharing can be achieved. Specifically, we ask that they approve a Work Programme for agriculture under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) so that the sector can take early action to determine the long-term investments needed to transform agriculture to meet future challenges.

Endorsed by:

  • UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
  • UN World Food Programme (WFP)
  • International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
  • The World Bank
  • CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)
  • Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU)
  • International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR)
  • Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)
  • World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO)
  • Global Donor Platform for Rural Development
  • ACP/EU Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
  • Farming First
  • Danish Agriculture and Food Council
  • Agriculture for Impact

Read the new press release direct from the Agriculture and Rural Development Day (ARDD) Leading Agricultural Organisations Issue Joint Appeal to COP17 Climate Negotiators at All-Day Event in Durban.