By Debbie Reed, C-AGG Executive Director
Among the less-known bodies of the UNFCCC are the Subsidiary Bodies: the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). As implied by its name, SBI provides guidance to the UNFCCC bodies on effective ways to implement agreements, including the 2015 Paris Agreement and the Kyoto Protocol. SBSTA is more of a scientifically deliberative body, assessing the scientific validity of issues before they can rise to the occasion of being considered in the more political Conference of the Parties (COP).

During COP23 negotiations in Bonn, SBI and SBSTA made some decisions that are important to supporting agricultural sector mitigation and adaptation opportunities in both the near-term and the long term.

Several conclusions made by SBSTA are important for agriculture and food security. For instance, SBSTA urged thematic expert meetings be held to examine specific polity options and opportunities to enhance mitigation and adaptation that are actionable in the short-term, including those with sustainable development co-benefits. Agricultural sector mitigation and adaptation fit squarely within those parameters, and we are hopeful that expert meetings on agriculture will continue to share best practices and support for policies and financing to further these opportunities.

Building on this, SBI encouraged the Adaptation Fund Board to engage subnational actors and the private sector, including through weather-based insurance arrangements, involvement with local groups and farmers in adaptation projects, and public-private partnerships. This opens the door to UNFCCC financing to agricultural adaptation projects that will be key to ensuring that the agricultural sector can become more resilient and withstand the volatility of climate change impacts.

And finally, SBSTA agreed to continue working on issues specific to agriculture in terms of long-term cooperative action between Parties to the UNFCCC. The COP, in turn, requested SBSTA and SBI to jointly address issues related to the agricultural sector through workshops and expert meetings, specifically taking into consideration the vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change, and the need to address food security.

In that vein, all Parties (e.g., the US, Canada, Mexico, etc.) and all observers (e.g. C-AGG) have been invited to submit, by March 2018, their views on elements to be included in the work for consideration by the Subsidiary Bodies. The COP indicated that this work should consider the 5 workshops held to date (more on that in the future), as well as methods and approaches to assess adaptation and co-benefits of adaptation and resilience; improved soil carbon, health and fertility; improved nutrient use and manure management; improved livestock management systems; and socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change.

As a credentialed Observer Group to the UNFCCC, C-AGG will be developing comments to address this request; be looking for our draft, and a request for stakeholder input, in the near future.

The COP requested that SBI and SBSTA report back to COP26 (in 2020) on progress and outcomes of this work. We look forward to continued engagement, and the opportunity to showcase the work of the US agricultural sector.