Putting the Paris Agreement into Practice: Reflections from Bonn

By Christopher Neglia 

The Rome-based food and agriculture agencies of the United Nations recently met in Bonn to discuss how climate finance can be used to do development better. Photo: IISD

The Paris Agreement commits developed countries to allocate US$100 billion per year to mitigation and adaptation actions from 2020 onwards. What does this mean for smallholder farmers on the frontlines of climate impacts in the developing world?

At the UNFCCC's Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) meeting in Bonn last week, the Rome-based food and agriculture agencies of the United Nations met to discuss how climate finance can be used to do development better.

The success of the Paris Agreement will ultimately rest on the collective ability of Parties to reach the targets they have set down in their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).  Here, the Rome-based agencies have a strategic role to play, in particular by supporting smallholder farmers in the adoption of sustainable and resilient farming systems.

In his opening statement, Dr. Martin Frick of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said that about 77 per cent of developing countries have identified agriculture as a priority area for mitigation actions, while 65 per cent have identified it as a priority area for adaptation actions. Indeed, this makes sense because most developing countries lack carbon-intensive industries, and therefore most of their emission-savings will come from the agriculture and forest sectors. Meanwhile, activities that contribute to climate adaptation also tend to offer mitigation co-benefits.

Since 2012, IFAD has been channelling climate finance to smallholders through its flagship Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP). Working in over 36 countries with a portfolio of US $366 million, it is the largest adaptation fund dedicated to smallholders worldwide. According to IFAD’s Roshan Cooke, ASAP is funding both soft and hard adaptation approaches.

Soft adaptation includes enhancement of agriculture extension to include climate-resilient agricultural practices, promotion of farmer field schools, research on resilient crop varieties, early warning systems, and strengthening institutions at all levels to respond to climate impacts. Hard adaptation includes investments in small-scale infrastructure such as irrigation systems, improved storage facilities, soil and water conservation measures, renewable energy systems and climate-resilient access roads.

Madeleine Diouf from the Ministry of Environment in Senegal added that smallholders in her country are clearly being affected by climate change. Senegal was one of the first countries to have a project approved by the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Increasing the Resilience of Ecosystems and Communities project aims to strengthen national capacity to develop desalinization and land management plans to respond to the pernicious trend of salt-water intrusion encroaching on agricultural lands.

Rawleston Moore of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) also participated in the discussion. Part of the mandate of the GEF coming from Paris is to support countries to implement their INDCs in different sectors, which may include other objectives related to land degradation and food security. The GEF, along with the GCF is responsible for financing projects with funds from the Paris agreement’s financial mechanism.

Finally, Tania Osejo of the World Food Programme (WFP) emphasized that by 2050, climate change could increase the risk of malnutrition and food insecurity by 20 per cent. To deal with this growing challenge, massive increases in investment are needed. Osejo also pointed to the cross-cutting nature of climate change, which requires integrated responses that involve research institutions, governments and NGOs.

All of the participants recognized that climate finance represents a chance for the global agriculture community to drive action and contribute to the accelerated implementation of the Paris Agreement.

 Christopher Neglia is a Climate and Environment consultant at IFAD.