Hon. Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to welcome you all to this very important Forum on “Climate Change and Food Security in the Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States in Asia and the Pacific Region”. Before I begin, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Khaltmaa Battulga for agreeing to host this event in this great country. By the same token, I wish to extend my thanks to each and every one of you here for dedicating your precious time to what I anticipate will be a timely, valuable and practical event.
As all here will readily acknowledge, climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions has become a defining human development issue of our times. It threatens our existence, our choices of lifestyles, and indeed our very freedom. While climate change affects all, it does not do so equally. Nor is our capacity to respond to its challenges at the same level. As is frequently the case, the most vulnerable countries – the Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States – find themselves in the worst possible situation. The irony of it all is the LDCs and SIDS have contributed least to the problems of climate change facing the entire globe. But these are the countries that are facing major disruptions to their economic growth, health status, and the environment. It is frightening to think of some of the forecasts made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): the Panel concluded that a global temperature increase of 4 degrees Centigrade would completely drown out low-lying island states such as Tuvalu, Kribati, and the Maldives. Many of the LDCs in Asia are expected to face complete disruptions in the weather patterns, and increased frequencies of floods and droughts. According to IPCC, the worst consequences may not be felt until 2050, but countries are already beginning to witness the adverse impacts of climate change on agricultural production and food security. Such extremes in weather patterns will expose millions of people in LDCs to poverty, hunger and disease. Next, the rising sea level, along with other climatic disruptions, threatens the very survival of the SIDS. In fact SIDS could physically disappear, and the populations will become environmental refugees. These dire predictions demand serious attention, and it is time we act.
With the aforesaid in focus, the United Nations has opened a special office to look after the concerns of LDCs and SIDS. I am very pleased to announce that UN-OHRLLS’ Chief of Policy, Mr. Sandagdorj Erdenebileg is here with us to share the thoughts of Mr. Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary General and High Representative, on how the UN is endeavouring to address your needs. I am equally pleased to inform you all that we also have with us Dr. Masaru Iwanaga, the President of JIRCAS, who will address us on climate change and food security from his vast knowledge and experience.
FAO, together with several other agencies, has been working on eradicating hunger and malnutrition globally. This Forum would give special attention to the impact of climate change on food security with respect to LLDCs and SIDS. While this Forum represents only a small step, yet it portends to hold a huge potential for further development. FAO’s attention is not merely confined to agricultural productivity but the multiple dimensions of food security. It concerns food availability, economic and physical access to food, nutrition, and stability. It wouldn’t do if we concentrate on agricultural productivity but neglect access to food. This fits in with FAO’s campaign to eradicate hunger worldwide.
In this respect, I wish to highlight the new FAO initiative, which we have labelled “Climate-Smart Agriculture” (CSA). This concept has the potential to generate the momentum to optimize and transform agricultural systems to sustainably and equitably produce more while adapting to climate change. CSA is also context specific, and gives the farmers a free hand in developing appropriate interventions which are tailored to meet their needs and specific environmental, social and economic needs. FAO is looking into creating a global mechanism to bring the technical, policy and financial support for countries to adopt the CSA approach.
It would be pertinent to bring to your attention that Articles 4.8 and 4.9 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), LDCs and SIDS are recognized to be most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, and the Convention particularly requires that “Parties shall take full account of the specific needs and special situations of the least developed countries in their actions with regard to funding and transfer of technology”. This Forum shall be the platform to lobby for more attention and support for our special needs.
What can we achieve at this Forum? I can perhaps make the point more trenchantly by departing from the usual opening remarks. So imagine that you live in an isolated village in Lao PDR. Your family has been tending the plot of land for generations. It’s been tough all along. But recently difficulties have compounded – the weather has become erratic, rainfall less predictable, crop yields tentative, and prices unstable. Now, let us imagine such a scenario persisting into the next decade, and further, with more droughts, more floods, more heat, and your food needs precariously on the line. How will your family survive? Will the whole village even exist? It is that poor farmer’s life that we are discussing at this Forum. I cannot imagine a more important meeting on a more crucial issue at the most critical time. So, this is our challenge today – how we can move forward an agenda that will enhance food security, and improve the lives of millions of rural folks who today exist in appalling poverty.
This Forum has set aside a special session, the “Heads of Agriculture Dialogue” where all the countries would have the opportunity to voice out their needs, individually and collectively. That poor villager in Lao PDR should be in our sight when we discuss what are the issues, and how shall we address them. In the past, development agencies were inclined to view at climate change, food security and the issues of poverty in isolation. Instead, we should discuss them and their inter-linkages for bringing about meaningful and practical solutions.
- We all know that 60% of the population in Asia-Pacific resides in the rural areas.
- We also know we will have to increase food production by 60% by 2050 to feed the expected 9 billion people.
- And we know that agriculture, forestry and land use change contributes about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.
All the above statistics would have to be taken into our discussion – we need to feed the world while simultaneously mitigating climate change. So, at this forum we will need to search for the triple solutions: first with policies and programmes to enhance agricultural productivity and rural incomes; second, to develop agricultural systems that are more resilient to climate change, and third for agriculture to be a part of the solution to climate change and not its problem. It is not a daunting task. Many countries in the Asia-Pacific region are already implementing excellent programmes for achieving such a triple-win solution.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman,
Let’s use this unprecedented gathering of Ministers and Senior Officials to pave the path for a more resilient agriculture system with a lower carbon footprint. And FAO will be your strongest partner in this endeavour.