Stuck in the middle: Agriculture and climate change at COP22

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      Keeping up the momentum for the global climate movement despite the American elections is a good result in itself. However, despite the good mood, many side events and new important initiatives launched by sub-groups of countries or companies, the UN climate conference COP22 did not deliver concrete policy and financing outcomes on the needed synergies between sustainable agriculture and climate actions: the talks got stuck between negotiating positions of developed and developing countries. More can and should be done in 2017. There is very little doubt about the central role of agriculture in addressing both the causes and the effects of climate change. This is reflected in the fact that 80% of countries included agriculture as part of their mitigation goals in their intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs), and 64% included agricultural adaptation. Therefore, agriculture was much more visible and debated at COP22, compared to one year ago at COP21. This raised expectations for the Marrakesh conference to fill the gap left in the Paris Agreement on agriculture. However, despite interesting presentations, discussions and new announcements, nothing concrete was agreed upon in terms of uniform policy directions, nor modalities and mechanisms for climate financing to support food systems to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and reduce greenhouse gases and deforestation while adapting to climate. Francesco Rampa on Food Security, Climate Change, and COP22

      The persistent North-South divide

      Considering the centrality given to food security and climate-agriculture linkages within Agenda 2030 and during most international fora after the adoption of the SDGs (e.g. the recent CFS), we expected more from COP22. Agriculture was prominently featured in the formal and informal agendas, but when negotiating formally, things got stuck in the middle of the North-South divide. Developing countries (through the G77 group) submitted a “draft Decision” on agriculture centred on “adaptation” (i.e. actions taken to help communities and ecosystems cope with changing climate conditions and to lower the risks posed by its consequences). But then, developed countries, led by the EU, tabled a counter-proposal focusing equally on “adaptation” and “mitigation” (i.e. the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture). No agreement could be found, so the parties only decided to postpone a decision on this to 2017 or beyond. This creates a risk for agriculture to be further neglected, if this sector doesn’t have a COP Decision to better guide the planning of (often self-interested) national policies, donor initiatives and bilateral investments. Photo courtesy of AusAid/Stephen Morrison via Flickr As often the case in formal and multilateral settings, it seems like parties do not even listen to each other: they get straight-jacked by the red-lines that they decided back in their capitals even before considering the arguments of the other side or the concerned stakeholders. How can we get out of this deadlock? Discussions should be more evidence-based, and negotiating positions should be backed-up by more data and details on the costs and benefits for different stakeholder groups from different policy and investment options (see CCAFS Report presented in Marrakesh on “new financial evidence and analysis including likely returns on investment to women and men smallholder farmers”). While expectations on what is feasible to make food systems more climate-resilient should be built bottom-up and guided by the private sector (with more attention to what smallholders and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need), effective public-private dialogue and partnerships should not only be based on commercial, but also political realities. In addition, much more should be done to break down traditional sectoral silos that are among the key bottlenecks in addressing the challenge of global warming:  better coordination among ministries of agriculture, energy and environment and among agribusiness, energy and infrastructure companies is needed. All this, together with more regular and informal dialogue opportunities, should allow for more honest discussions to get different stakeholders closer to a compromise. This can  then increase the chances for consensus at the formal negotiating tables.

      No solution to climate financing

      When it comes to actually committing and effectively disbursing the pledged funds, things also tend to get stuck in the middle. Despite the COP22 agreement to keep talking in 2017 about modalities for climate financing and the launch of  some new financing instruments (e.g. Le Fonds d’investissement de Marrakech pour l’adaptation), no major decision was made to address three major problems that affect climate financing:

      (1) who will be the beneficiaries of the increasing resources devoted to climate, in terms of sectors and stakeholder groups (i.e. how much will go to agriculture and smallholders in particular)?

      (2) Who is going to contribute to the huge Paris Agreement pledge and how will those funds be accounted for ($100 billion per year will be mobilised from public and private sources to help developing countries mitigate and adapt to climate change by 2020, primarily channelled through the Green Climate Fund, GCF)?

      (3) What are the financial mechanisms and disbursement procedures to be used for climate financing (given the complaints by African administrations and farmers organisations that current access procedures are too cumbersome)?

      Photo courtesy of Bioversity International/S.Landersz via Flickr

      Outlook on 2017

      Even if multilateral negotiations on financing are stuck within the COP processes, 2017 offers certain high-level donor platforms that could possibly break the deadlock.  The EU and the G7 donors, the largest contributors to UNFCCC climate finance mechanisms, could commit to dedicate an agreed percentage of allocations of the GCF to sustainable agriculture and food systems in developing countries. Many of the most vulnerable countries to climate change are located in Africa, but this continent receives a relatively small percentage of international climate funding (and only a portion of that focused on agriculture). Therefore, the EU and the G7 could commit part of this GCF share for agriculture to support the implementation of the initiative for the Adaptation of African Agriculture (launched in Marrakesh with the ambitious target of raising US$30bn). This commitment could extend to G7 and EU actions to simplify procedures of the GCF. Concrete opportunities to launch these efforts and to boost the needed synergies between climate and agriculture are the G7 Taormina Summit in May (taking into account the last G7 under Italian Presidency in 2009 is remembered for launching the “L’Aquila Food Security Initiative”) and the EU-AU Agriculture Ministerial (scheduled to take place in July at margin of the biennial FAO Conference). ECDPM stands ready to contribute to such efforts to better link food security and climate action, through its independent research and dialogue methodologies, and extensive networks in Europe, Africa and beyond. The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of ECDPM.
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