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Opening the Door for Agriculture at COP16

December 7, 2010
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The mutual dependence of climate security and food security was the clear message from Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010, held on December 4 in parallel with the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP16) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place at Cancún, Mexico.

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These words are only now starting to resonate with climate change negotiators. Hopefully, actions will speak louder than words. Just from the event’s plenary session, it was clear that many countries are already actively seeking ways to achieve the “triple win” of stronger food security, more rapid growth in agricultural productivity and enhanced carbon capture, while also making farming more resilient in the face of climate change.

Mexico, for example, is doing its part by pursuing a series of concrete measures, such as the promotion of conservation agriculture, for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The country has set ambitious goals for progress on both fronts by 2012, including emissions reduction in agriculture of 7.83 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to Ignacio Rivera Rodríguez, Sub-Secretary for Rural Development in Mexico’s Secretariat for Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food.

Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Chair and Vice President of Sustainable Development, World Bank, cited further examples of decisive action, such as the spread of Evergreen Agriculture in Africa. These and further cases, presented by speakers from China and other countries, demonstrate impressively how climate-smart farming practices are already being put into practice.

A statement resulting from Agriculture and Rural Development 2010 called for many more initiatives of this kind, with emphasis on efforts to help the rural poor adapt to climate change impacts and on the use of climate finance to realize agriculture’s substantial potential for capturing carbon and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Participants in the event also came to grips with the thorny issue of how agricultural intensification can be made compatible with the reduction of deforestation. Several speakers stressed that to promote rather than undermine this aim, efforts to produce more from less land must form part of a larger package of interventions aimed at encouraging better use of already deforested land, reduced waste of food and agricultural inputs, and clear definition of tenure rights for farming and forest communities.

The lively roundtable discussion on this issue, which continued in a Learning Event held at Forest Day 4, represented an important step toward a more integrated approach through which the agriculture and forestry sectors can jointly pursue their shared goal of finding triple-win solutions that matter for the poor and the planet.

In order for such an approach to thrive, however, it is essential that climate negotiators heed the call from Agriculture and Rural Development Day 2010 for various steps, including explicit recognition of the critical links between agriculture and forestry and the creation of an agricultural work program under the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological  Advice (SBSTA) as a first step toward the inclusion of food security in any post-2012 agreement.

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