Climate change negotiations to find agriculture part of the solution

The Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) meetings in Bonn will for the first time hopefully discuss agriculture's role in the climate negotiations. Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)
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May 15, 2012

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By Cecilia Schubert

Dr Mohammed Asaduzzaman, Vice-Chair of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, writes in a newly published article about the importance of viewing agriculture as part of the climate change solution in the ongoing negotiations. At the moment, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (UNFCCC-SBSTA) meetings are taking place in Bonn, Germany, which is an opportunity for negotiators to address this one area that has received very little attention and its potantial role in both climate change adaptation and mitigation.

During COP17, the last climate conference held in Durban last year, it was decided that SBSTA would act as a platform to further discuss agriculture in the context of climate change. Party delegations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), researchers and others have all now gathered in Bonn for the two week meeting, to find a way forward for the world’s climate and prepare for the upcoming negotiations in Qatar for COP18, where hopefully a decision on agriculture will be made.

Leading up to the SBSTA meetings, organizations were offered the opportunity to provide UNFCCC with their views on issues related to agriculture. The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) organized two workshops in the beginning of the year, which produced a common position from stakeholders in Eastern and Southern Africa that identified key issues relating to agriculture that could form the basis of the SBSTA work.

Placing agriculture as a contributor to both adaptation and mitigation

As many regions in the world are facing a food insecure future, putting agriculture in the center of climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies is crucial. The time is now for international policy action, but it must be done right, says Dr. Asaduzzaman writes in his article. Sustainable intensification of agriculture can in fact increase food production per hectare, while maintaining environmental services including climate regulation, he continues.

The Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change has put forward seven recommendations on how to ensure future food security in the context of climate change, while facing a population of 9 billion people. One of the recommendations to policy makers that were made, called for UNFCCC negotiators to establish a work programme on adaptation and mitigation in agriculture within the SBSTA. 

Establishment of a SBSTA work programme would create a process for exploring critical technical issues and forecasting outcomes under a broad range of potential mechanisms. But in order for countries to commit financial resources and develop rules, Asaduzzaman points out, the UNFCCC negotiators need robust evaluation of the potential and cost-effectiveness of agricultural mitigation strategies that include critical co-benefits for adaptation, livelihoods and food security.

Top priority should be given to assessing the vulnerability of agricultural systems and the knowledge, capacity and available technology for adaptation and mitigation” Asaduzzaman writes, where he views “characterizing the knowledge base for different regions, production systems and crop types” to be of particular importance.

Asaduzzaman concludes that “exclusion of agriculture from global climate policy would be a serious omission and a missed opportunity for increasing the resilience of the food system while reducing its climate footprint”. There is a real risk inherent in further ignoring agriculture and excluding it from the climate change negotiations, which might put human lives at peril through reducing food security around the world.

As a way to address the lack of importance placed on agriculture in contributing to the climate work, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) have coordinated a side event at SBSTA, on how agriculture can contribute to adaptation and mitigation. The presentations will elucidate what is known in the area, and where science can provide rapid policy-relevant new knowledge. Speakers  include Commissioner Mohammed Asaduzzaman, CCAFS Head of Research Sonja Vermeulen, Henry Neufeldt from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), and  Manyewu Mutamba from SACAU. The content discussions will range from climate smart agriculture, advances in greenhouse gas (GHG) measurements and actions needed beyond agriculture that will secure long-term food security. For more information about our side event, visit our event page.

Read more:

Now is the Time to Make Agriculture Part of the Climate Change Solution - Climate Change Policy & Practice, 14 May 2012

Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change: key actions from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change


This story was written by Cecilia Schubert, Communications Assistant at CCAFS Coordinating Unit. Follow the coverage of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) meetings all week on our blog, on twitter at @cgiarclimate, and on Facebook.