Interview Liza Leclerc on Climate Action Report 2019

IFAD’s Climate Action Report 2019 was released this week at the UNFCCC COP25 in Madrid, Spain.

The report is designed to inform as well as inspire those in the global community and in the field working to overcome the challenges of climate change and rural poverty reduction.

Liza Leclerc is IFAD’s Lead Climate Change Specialist. She spoke to IFAD’s podcast Farms. Food. Future. about the report and the challenges we face as move forward.

The Climate Action Report 2019 is the second edition of this report – what does it set out to do?

The report is particularly important right now as it highlights the work IFAD is doing to support smallholders addressing climate change in terms of both adaptation and mitigation. As you know agriculture and land-use is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions after energy. More importantly, I think this year is a year of numbers – numbers in terms of climate change action and the climate change action at IFAD. The report highlights how we are making progress towards spending 25 per cent of IFAD’s programme of loans and grants on climate focused areas.

Why is this important? Well as we recently saw from the World Meteorological Organization’s report released here in Madrid, they confirmed that 2019 is already one of the top three hottest years since climate records began. The first and second hottest years were the previous two years, so we are definitely seeing a trend.

We also know from the report that we are now on track for a 3 degree Celsius warming above pre-industrial levels. We have already seen the world warm by 1.1 degrees and we expect that when we hit 2 degrees there will be a tipping point for ecosystems, as we move on the way towards a three degree world.

In the last three years, as well as being the hottest, we are also seeing that food security is actually on the increase. What is concerning in our client countries where we work is that climate change is one of the main drivers of this. In 26 out of 33 countries effected by growing food-insecurity climate change is a driver along with things like conflict. Conflict itself is related to climate change though such things as droughts, floods and cyclones leaving people displaced from their homes. In 12 of the 33 countries climate change is the main driver of increasing food insecurity.

What would you say are the main areas where IFAD has moved on its climate work over the past 12 months?

I think our journey started in 2012 with IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP), which is IFAD’s adaptation fund that has supported 41 countries on climate change.

As we have implemented this programme we identified activities that work really well which we want to replicate. We also have a better idea of things that don’t work so well and are not as effective. In doing all this we realised we need a number of tools to insure we do the right thing. So 2019 was a natural evolution of this work started back in 2012, where we are solidifying these tools as we have a better idea of what to do, where to do it and how much it costs.

How would you surmise how IFAD goes about doing climate change differently?

I think the primary thing is that we are the only UN specialised agency and International Financial Institution (IFI) that focuses on smallholders and rural development. This is so important because 40 per cent of the world’s population lives in rural area in developing countries, and most of these people are poor. Because we are an IFI we also have significant investments that we can build on and build our climate change portfolio on.

I think it has been interesting this year to see the issue of plastics and micro-plastics topping the agenda in peoples’ minds and climate change as well. But the third area we keep hearing about, and is a recurring theme in the media, is food insecurity and that the food system are broken.

I feel frustrated sometimes because a lot of the issues smallholders face to meet their food security needs are caused by global problems, such as climate change but also the growing demand for meat and dairy from the developing world.

In many ways the decks are being stacked against them so that is why events like this, COP25, are so important to mobilise the global community and address the problems facing rural people in developing countries. IFAD is well placed to understand the interaction between those two.

What will we be seeing in 2020 – what’s next?

I think you will see us placing an increased emphasis on food security. I think this concern from the global community related to food systems and the negative trend around food security will be even more central to the work that we do at IFAD.

One of the things that we have learnt from the past is that whatever measures we put in place when we work with countries, they need to be bottom up. So we will be engaging even more with countries and engaging even more with communities to really make sure that they get the tools and the resources they need to take development in to their own hands and design the life they want to have for themselves and their children.