Walking the Talk in the Fight against Climate Change

By Christopher Neglia

At a standing room only event held on Wednesday morning at the Committee on World Food Security (CFS44), speakers and audience members were asked how their respective organizations could ‘Walk the Talk’ in the fight against climate change (some on the panel joked that in the UN we are more adept at the latter). This entreaty arose from a set of recommendations issued in 2012 by the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), which had called for more integration of climate change concerns in policies and programmes that addressed food security and national agricultural sectors.

Recalling the recommendations adopted at CFS39, the Chair of the HLPE Steering Committee, M.Patrick Caron noted that demonstrable progress has been made in the last five years. Under the auspices of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) we now have the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We also have the Paris Agreement, and its financial mechanism, the Green Climate Fund (GCF). We are starting to see climate change concerns integrated in food security policies at the national level, explicitly supporting the resilience of vulnerable groups and food systems.

Delphine Borione ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
First to speak on the panel, French Ambassador Mrs. Delphine Borione underlined the potential of France’s four per 1000 Initiative, whose basic tenet is that by increasing by four percent the carbon storage in the world’s soils we can greatly offset the annual increase of CO2 into the atmosphere. She also pointed to efforts to reduce carbon emissions in France’s livestock sector by 15 per cent.

‘We’re combining conditions under climate change with food systems…we need innovation and a transition to organizing new models of land use for growth and employment,’ French Ambassador Mrs. Borione said.

Hassan Abouyoub ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Similarly, the Ambassador of Morocco, M. Hassan Abouyoub, described his country’s efforts to reorganize society due to chronic water scarcity, pointing out that agriculture consumes about three quarters of water resources. He emphasized the role education plays in influencing policy outcomes.

‘We can’t implement policies rationally and efficiently if we don’t teach this in our educational system and have sound evidence present in our decision-making,’ Ambassador of Morocco M. Abouyoub said.

Faris Ahmed ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
At the international level, M. Faris Ahmed of USC Canada, representing the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) of the CFS, recognized the inherent difficulties of addressing climate change through agriculture, forestry and fishery sectors.

‘Our sectors are so diverse that it’s hard to bring them together,’ Ahmed proffered.

These constituencies tend to be the most affected by climate change, while they are also the least consulted. In this context, M. Ahmed underlined the strong human rights foundation of the CFS; an orientation that he said should be applied when engaging stakeholders in climate change action.

Martin Frick ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
Picking up on this point, FAO’s Director of the Climate and Environment Division, M. Martin Frick, advocated for greater land rights for women, both as a matter of social and economic justice, and as a means of improving agricultural production without increasing the environmental footprint of small farming systems.

On the state of the CFS, M. Martin Frick struck a note of optimism, saying that after 21 years of UNFCCC negotiations, member states had finally accepted that agriculture had a role in climate change debates. M. Frick called for research programmes led by the Rome-based Agencies of the UN to project climate change impacts on agriculture in a much more granular way, primarily as a means of better serving member states.

For those of us who work with these issues every day, reflecting on where the CFS was five years ago provided a useful contrast to the complex policy architecture that has evolved in the intervening years. This bolsters the prospect that climate action will accelerate further as we approach 2020, when the Paris agreement comes into force.

Margarita Astralaga ©FAO/Riccardo De Luca
IFAD's Director of the Climate and Environment Division, Mrs. Margarita Astralaga, who moderated the event, explained that there are still major logistical challenges that relate to monitoring policy outcomes, which is necessary to better understand the role of agriculture in fighting climate change.

'For developing countries, measuring policies and programmes will require a massive effort as they must account for actions detailed in their NDCs as part of the global stocktake exercise, a key element of the Paris Agreement,' explained Astralaga.

Amassador Abouyoub agreed that monitoring is an essential component that feeds into the Paris Agreement’s ambition mechanism, and he called for more capacity-building in this area that would support generating better data on the feasibility of climate risk management.

Nevertheless, in this event the CFS demonstrated its relevance as a forum that reinforces integration of food security and climate change issues, making good on demands by member states for support as they deal with a complex and interrelated set of challenges.