By Debbie Reed, C-AGG Executive Director
I recently returned from attending COP23 negotiations in Bonn, Germany, where the German government hosted the UNFCCC negotiations on behalf of Fiji. November 10 was designated Agriculture Action Day at COP23, and was marked by a full days’ activities devoted exclusively to the issue of agriculture and agricultural solutions in the context of climate change. The day opened with a High-Level Plenary session led by Mohamed Ait Kadi of Morocco. Ait Kadi recalled that the Marrakech Action Proclamation issued at the close of the 2016 COP22 negotiations in Marrakech was a landmark and historical event for agriculture. The Marrakech Action Proclamation states, in part:
“We call for strong solidarity with those countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and underscore the need to support efforts aimed to enhance their adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability.
“We call for all Parties to strengthen and support efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and to take stringent action to deal with climate change challenges in agriculture.”
The complete text of the Marrakech Proclamation opened the door to stronger linkages between climate change mitigation and adaptation and sustainable development, and to enhanced “volume, flow and access to finance for” developing countries and those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The steps achieved in Morocco and the activities and outcomes of COP23 will help to further solidify attention and support to the agricultural agenda, given the importance of agriculture for global food security, sustainable development, human health and nutrition, and a host of other issues that are global imperatives.
Peter Bleser of the Germany Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture spoke of the importance of farmers and the agricultural and land use sectors in implementing the Paris Agreement and in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The days’ activities in fact showed recognition by both developed and developing countries that climate change mitigation and adaptation are important to small-holder farmers and larger-scale industrialized farmers alike. This more egalitarian approach is a welcome change from some past events where interventions sought to cast dispersion on one agricultural system at the expense of others, or seemed to imply that one is more valid or beneficial than another. Most panels and sessions during Agriculture Action Day included fairly balanced representation from developed and developing countries, and industrialized and small-holder agriculture, in seeming recognition that all are equally valid and necessary to recognize and to address in the negotiations.
Over the coming weeks I will address other salient outcomes of the COP23 negotiations that are important signals to global progress in addressing the climate problem and to the relevant issues of agricultural mitigation and adaptation. In particular, there is growing recognition that the world cannot meet the 1.5 or 2 degree warming goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement without soon halting all GHG emissions and undertaking significant actions that actually draw down atmospheric carbon. The latter speaks directly to the beneficial impacts that agricultural activities and working lands can have in storing carbon in soils.
Soil carbon sequestration is a win-win-win solution, in that it not only improves soil health, tilth and fertility, it also increases resilience to the harmful effects of climate change on agricultural lands, including increased drought resilience through improved water holding capacity, and improved resilience to flooding through the absorption of larger amounts of water. These actions are beneficial for food security and adaptation to climate change, but also important for farmer resiliency, productivity, and viability. And by drawing down atmospheric carbon concentrations and storing carbon in the terrestrial sphere, soils can help mitigate climate change. This is a story worth telling, and a future worth contemplating.