Seizing the Opportunity for Agriculture in a New Climate Change Deal

For those of us who have been following agriculture and climate change for some time, hearing that "the time is now" may be met with some doubt.

It has been a long, and at times drawn-out, affair. We have seen progress made on reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD+), and on many other issues. Still, agriculture has been touch-and-go for much of the past decade.

But 2015 is a year of opportunity.

It is a year of opportunity because we see key moments in the Durban platform negotiations moving along with a key opportunity under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). As advocates for agriculture, we need to mobilize to make 2015 the year in which agriculture becomes an unavoidable part of the discussion on climate change under UNFCCC.

The formal launch of the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA) in September 2014 at the UN Climate Summit was an important signal, showing that there is now a new and strong consensus about the need to address agriculture as part of climate change. GACSA is not about the negotiations, but it is an important forum for sharing practices, and practice can help drive policy. It is also a signal to the international community that addressing emissions and building resilience can be done collaboratively at the global level.

Now we face two sets of opportunities that must be seized:
  1. First, we have a series of submissions and workshops on agriculture mandated under SBSTA - the subsidiary body for scientific and technical advice, which marshals scientific evidence to support country decisions in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). These present a tremendous opportunity to discuss many of the issues that have been at the core of the concerns about agriculture and climate change. They will feed into negotiators' briefs and inform their decisions. CGIAR, its collaborators and others have submitted a number of papers ahead of these meetings, which can be found here and here.
  • Second, we now see agriculture mentioned in the draft negotiating text under ADP - the Ad Hoc working group on the Durban Platform. It's small, it's imperfect, but it's there. And this is a first because agriculture had not featured in the negotiations to date. This must be pushed and built upon.
  • The challenge, of course, is time. 2015 is the year of opportunities because it marks the year where a new agreement will be signed. So time is short. And the SBSTA process is long. But there will be five years before the agreement comes into force and there will be opportunities to add and refine.

    What must we do?
    1. Ensure agriculture remains in the ADP negotiating text: this means keeping mentions of agriculture under the mitigation chapter, but also seeing agriculture mentioned under adaptation.
    2. Work to specify how the SBSTA outcomes will feed into the new agreement: There must be a mandate given to SBSTA and the ADP to work together to flesh out the elements included in the new agreement so something workable is in place by 2020
    3. Work with national governments to ensure the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by countries include agriculture.
    4. Besides ADP and SBSTA, we need to continue to ask for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to provide specific, stable, and long-term support to adaptation and mitigation in agriculture.
    5. And more than ever, we need the presence of agriculture supporters in June in Bonn, but also in August and October for the ADP negotiations.

    To find out more about what is needed to advance agriculture in a global climate deal, read the new Guide to the UNFCCC Negotiations on Agriculture, produced by Farming First, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).