Photo courtesy of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
For the first time in the 25-year history of international climate negotiations, the 197 member countries of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have reached an agreement on agriculture. The milestone came near the close of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) of the UNFCCC and formally establishes a process called the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.
This process lays the groundwork for the two subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC, one focused on technical advice and one on implementation measures, to review and consolidate experience and information on issues related to agriculture through workshops and technical expert meetings.
“Climate change is already affecting agriculture and food security,” said José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. “Without urgent action to adapt agriculture and meet a growing global demand for food, there will be more hungry people in the world. [The Koronivia] decision is a major step to address this problem, and to enable the agricultural sectors to also engage in worldwide efforts to limit global warming.”
The framework requests reports in three years, at COP26 in 2020, from the two bodies, the Subsidiary Body for Science and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI).
Countries identified five initial focus areas for the work: methods and approaches for assessing adaptation, adaptation co-benefits, and resilience; improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility under grassland and cropland; improved nutrient use and manure management towards sustainable and resilient agricultural systems; improved livestock management systems; and socioeconomic and food security dimensions of climate change in the agricultural sector.
While the Koronivia decision moves conversations about agriculture closer to the implementation of solutions, it does not discuss funding, a matter that members of the agricultural development community suggest will prove contentious in the future. “Moving to implementation means putting money on the table,” said Sarah Lickel, an advocacy officer with Caritas France. “For the first time, there is a space about mitigation of agriculture and about adaptation. The battle is now to come, though at least we have a space to have it.”
Despite a common sense of urgency, “fundamental differences” between countries on a range of questions have stymied negotiations during all previous attempts, including in Morocco in 2016, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.
A number of other organizations convened stakeholders, released statements, and launched knowledge-sharing platforms related to agriculture and climate change at COP23.
The UNFAO launched a new climate-smart agriculture web platform and sourcebook as a guide for countries, subnational governments, and businesses. CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) hosted a series of six side events at the conference called “Agricultural Advantage: The Case for Climate Action in Agriculture.” Food Tank published a commitment by 25 U.S. farmer organizations to work towards the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement regardless of the official position of the U.S. federal government.