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Enabling policy environment for Climate-Smart Agriculture

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Global frameworks shaping national climate policies

In 2015, two major international agreements were reached that will influence policies, strategies and actions from the global to local level in the coming years: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (see chapter C3-3.2) and the accompanying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted in September 2015; and the Paris Agreement on climate change (see chapter C3-3.1), which was reached in December 2015 and ratified in November 2016. 

A third global framework that will guide national sustainable development activities is the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015-2030, which was adopted at the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan in March 2015 (see chapter C3-3.3). There are other international agreements, which may not have an explicit climate focus, that may nevertheless influence national climate policy objectives.

C3 - 3.1 The 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the 17 SDGs articulate global objectives that were agreed by United Nation Member States and represent the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs will shape national development plans over the next 14 years. The agriculture sectors are at the heart of the 2030 Agenda. To make progress toward the reaching the targets laid out in the SDGs, it will be crucial to make agriculture and food systems more sustainable, which will include reducing food losses and waste. This can be done by improving management practices in crop and livestock production, forestry and fisheries and aquaculture, and by encouraging behaviours in consumers that support sustainable climate-smart development. A key aspect in the implementation of Agenda 2030 will be establishing a country-driven and country-owned development process, which can be achieved by adopting a system-wide and integrated approach to capacity development. Climate-smart agriculture can help achieve many of the SDGs, including: 

  • SDG 1 - 'End poverty in all its forms everywhere';
  • SDG 2 - 'End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture';
  • SDG 12 -  'Achieve sustainable production and consumption';
  • SDG 13 - 'Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts'; and 
  • SDG 15 - 'Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss'. 

Progress in several other SDGs is required to support the transition to climate-smart agriculture. Because of these interdependencies, the 2030 Agenda recognizes that it is not possible to address the challenges associated with food security, rural livelihoods and the sustainable management of natural resources in isolation. An integrated cross-sectoral approach is required, which would involve a range of activities, including greater cooperation in collecting and harmonizing data.

C3 - 3.2 The Paris Agreement supports national efforts to achieve climate-smart agriculture

The Paris Agreement on climate change recognizes “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse effects of climate change”. It also reaffirms the important role of land use, land-use change and forestry in mitigating climate change (FAO, 2016a). 

The Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which were submitted by the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), are the foundation of the Paris Agreement. The INDCs outline the national roadmaps for addressing climate change. They become Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) when the UNFCCC Party officially ratifies the Paris Agreement. The NDCs have to be reviewed every five years and as time goes by will ideally become more ambitious in their political commitment and specific actions.

A FAO analysis of the INDCs shows that countries have accorded the agriculture sectors a prominent role in their climate change actions. As of July 2016, 189 countries (190 UNFCCC Parties) had submitted a total of 161 INDCs and 22 NDCs. All 189 countries outline mitigation contributions in general, and 168 countries specify targets or actions related to crop and livestock production, land use, land-use change and forestry. In addition, 93 percent of developing countries included adaptation in the agricultural sectors in their INDCs. Vulnerability to long-term climate change and climate variability, including extreme events, such as droughts and floods are mentioned by 126 countries (FAO, 2016c). Overall, the majority of least developed countries cite extreme events as being among their most immediate concerns. Developed countries identify long-term hazards, such as increased temperatures, as a major challenge in their INDCs (FAO, 2016b). 

In INDCs, countries often refer to both mitigation and adaptation in the agriculture sectors, which indicates the potential to leverage mitigation-adaptation synergies. In many cases, opportunities for realizing these synergies were explicitly mentioned, with 57 countries endorsing or even prioritizing actions based on the potential synergies between mitigation and adaptation. Several countries refer to concepts, such as climate-smart agriculture, that capitalize on mitigation-adaptation synergies. Specifically, 32 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa, explicitly mention climate-smart agriculture (FAO, 2016b). Uruguay has noted that as a result of its 2010 climate-smart agriculture policy, the country will continue to make efforts to build a more efficient, resilient and low-carbon cattle farming sector, by introducing new technologies and incorporating successful experiences gained by other countries with similar characteristics (FAO, 2010; 2016b).

The targets and objectives outlined in NDCs need to be translated into actions on the ground. To build upon potential synergies and avoid maladaptations in this process, policy coherence within and across all the agriculture sectors is of high importance. Improving policy coherence also needs to be linked with an integrated and system-wide capacity development process (see module C1). It is also crucial to integrate climate change considerations associated with the agriculture sectors and food security and nutrition, such as land and water management, into policies related to disaster risk reduction and social protection. 

UNFCCC instruments link climate change contributions to concrete national actions

Countries can deliver their determined adaptation and mitigation contributions through various means. A series of instruments – National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) ¬– has been established under the UNFCCC for linking international climate change negotiations and outcomes to concrete national mitigation and adaptation actions. A principle common to all these instruments is that adaptation and mitigation measures should not be treated in isolation from other climate and development goals. This calls for a careful analysis of the potential synergies, co-benefits and trade-offs among the proposed actions. The NAPAs, NAPs and NAMAs can support countries in leveraging international climate finance for making the transition to climate-smart agriculture. 

  • NAPAs were established by the UNFCCC in 2001 as a dedicated, harmonized, country-led instrument for least developed countries. NAPAs identify priority activities for climate change adaptation that respond to urgent and immediate needs for which further delay could increase vulnerability or lead to increased costs at a later stage. By January 2017, 50 countries had submitted NAPAs to the UNFCCC Secretariat (UNFCCC, 2016a). The majority of priority projects indicated in NAPAs are related to the agriculture sectors and food security (Meybeck et al., 2012). Most of these NAPAs belong to the following categories: cross-sectoral activities, including early warning systems, disaster risk management, education and capacity building; the management of ecosystems; water management; crop and livestock production; and economic diversification and income generation. 
  • All NAPAs are eligible for funding under the UNFCCC Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), which is managed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) for their implementation. By mid-2016, the LDCF had approved funding for 173 NAPA projects and programmes in 49 least developed countries (UNFCCC, 2016b).
  • NAPs are considered to be a core vehicle for making progress on adaptation priorities and towards achieving the goals and targets laid out in NDCs. The NAP process, which was established under the Cancun Adaptation Framework in 2010, supports Parties to the UNFCCC to develop and implement strategies and programmes that address medium- and long-term adaptation needs. NAPs can build upon the NAPAs. At the national level, the formulation and implementation of NAPs, which is part of ongoing adaptation and resilience building, are often done within a wider climate change response that may also include disaster risk reduction and climate change mitigation. NAPs provide an opportunity to address the concerns and needs of the agriculture sectors and agricultural stakeholders in broad national climate adaptation strategies, policies and plans. Adaptation planning requires institutional coordination among the crop and livestock, forestry and fisheries and aquaculture sectors, and also with other sectors that use natural resources, particularly land and water (FAO, 2017). For implementing the adaptation actions, emphasis is placed on integrating climate change considerations and actions into the sectoral policies, plans and programmes in all the agriculture sectors (FAO, 2017). A global programme, the Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans (NAP-Ag) Programme, led by FAO and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), supports partner countries by using a country-driven process to identify and address climate change adaptation measures for the agriculture sectors in national planning and budgeting processes through the formulation and implementation of a NAP. 
  • By August 2017, seven NAPs have been submitted to the UNFCCC by Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Sudan, and the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They all give importance to adaptation in agriculture. In June 2016, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) decided to open new funding window under its Readiness Programme to support the process to formulate and implement NAPs and other adaptation planning processes in developing countries. Through this funding window, the GCF Secretariat provides up to USD 3 million per country.
  • NAMAs, as defined by UNFCCC, are prepared by national governments in developing countries to provide for nationally appropriate actions that reduce emissions in the context of sustainable development (UNFCCC, 2016c). NAMAs can be project-based, programmatic, sector-wide, or focused at the policy level (Wilkes et al., 2013). As of July 2016, interventions in the agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors were included in approximately 18 percent of all NAMA proposals submitted to the UNFCCC NAMA Registry (UNFCCC, 2016d). Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in crop and livestock production, forestry, and fisheries and aquaculture, and land use create opportunities to build on the synergies between sustainable development and climate goals, particularly through activities related to sustainable agriculture intensification and improved efficiency in the use of resources. For example, greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by improving livestock health and diets (see Box C4.1). Other measures that can be used to intensify production and increase the efficiency of resources include improving methods for applying nitrogen fertilizers, alternate wetting and drying of rice paddies, expanding agroforestry and sustainably managing organic and mineral soils (Avagyan et al., 2016). All of these measures contribute to increasing agricultural productivity and building resilience to the impacts of climate change. 

Box C3.1 Kenya – Aligning agriculture priorities in NAPs, NDCs and national development plans through broad stakeholder engagement 

Kenya has been on the forefront of addressing climate change, launching a National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) in 2010 and a National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in 2013. The Action Plan outlines adaptation as a priority for the country because of the serious adverse socio–economic impacts climate change is expected to cause and the increasing vulnerabilities of different sectors. 

The NAP (2015–2030), whose development started in 2014, is Kenya’s first plan on adaptation and covers crop and livestock production, forestry and fisheries. It builds on the comprehensive technical analysis that was carried out to prepare the Adaptation Technical Analysis Reports (ATAR), which were developed as part of the NCCAP. 

The aim of Kenya’s NAP is to consolidate the country’s vision on adaptation, which is supported by macro-level adaptation actions targeting economic sectors and country-level vulnerabilities to enhance long-term resilience and adaptive capacity. The national adaptation planning was informed by a highly participatory process coordinated through the Adaptation Thematic Working Group (TWG) and the NCCAP task force. The process included consultations at national and county levels that involved many different stakeholders, including national government ministries, departments and agencies, county governments, civil society organizations and the private sector. The finalization of the NAP was the first priority action in the ATAR, and the Adaptation TWG was tasked with completing it, and fulfilling the consultation and analytical guidelines as stipulated in the UNFCCC NAP Technical Guidelines. Issues related to gender, vulnerable groups and youth have been outlined and budget estimates allocated. Financial support came from multiple sources, including the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) through the Strengthening Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change in Kenya (StARCK+) Project and the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN). Part of the team that developed the NAP underwent UNFCCC–led NAP capacity building in Ethiopia and Zambia, and received support through the UNDP-FAO NAP-Ag Programme. Representatives from the agriculture sectors participated in the TWG, which ensured that agricultural concerns were incorporated into the NAP. The NAP recognizes the climate-smart approach as the approach through which the agriculture sectors can achieve their adaptation goals. All these developments are addressed in Kenya’s INDC, which was submitted in 2015. 

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Kenya, 2016

C3 - 3.3 The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction

The SFDRR, which builds on the experiences of the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005-2015), recognizes that disaster risk reduction is an important part of efforts to achieve sustainable development and address climate change (see module C5). The actions at the national and global levels that are promoted by the SFDRR fall into four priority areas; gaining a better understanding of risk; strengthening risk governance; investing in resilience; and improving preparedness, response, and recovery. The Framework addresses climate change as one of the drivers of disaster risk and notes that the linkages with the 2030 development agenda and the Paris Agreement offer a unique opportunity “to reduce disaster risk in a meaningful and coherent manner across policies, institutions, goals, indicators and measurement systems for implementation”. 

By adopting the SFDRR, countries pledged to enhance efforts to strengthen disaster risk reduction and reduce the losses of lives, assets and livelihoods caused by disasters. The endorsement of this new framework was a milestone in shaping the global resilience agenda. From a food security, nutrition and agriculture perspective, the specific innovative elements of the SFDRR include a call for a stronger multisectoral engagement; a tighter focus on preparedness; and a greater role of social safety net mechanisms in the areas of food security and nutrition. The SFDRR also makes direct references to the need for protecting livelihoods and productive assets including livestock, working animals, tools and seeds. 

C3 - 3.4 Need for a stronger alignment between the global agendas at the national level

The agriculture sectors offer enormous potential and opportunities to create synergies between activities to addressing climate change, promote sustainable development and reduce the risk of disasters (see also Chapter C3-3.3 and module C5). Recent analyses have demonstrated that there is a high degree of alignment between the SDG targets and the climate actions communicated in the INDCs (Northrop et al., 2016). The benefits of aligning disaster risk reduction and climate change policies and strategies to increase resilience, for example, under the climate-smart agriculture agenda, have been acknowledged by an increasing number of countries (see also module C5-5).   

The five principles of sustainable food and agriculture endorsed by FAO membership include climate change and disaster risk reduction as key dimensions. These principles, which provide the basis for the policy dialogue and governance arrangements needed at the national level to identify sustainable development pathways connecting the SDGs, various sectors and different stages of value chains, are:

  1. improve efficiency in the use of resources;
  2. engage in direct action to conserve, protect and enhance natural resources; 
  3. protect rural livelihoods and improve equity and social well-being; 
  4. enhance the resilience of people, communities and ecosystems, especially to climate change and market volatility;
  5. recognize that responsible and effective governance is essential for the sustainability of both the natural and human systems (FAO, 2014).

Implementing and monitoring the measures that have been undertaken to address climate change, foster sustainable development and reduce disaster risk in an integrated and coherent manner can maximize the impact of investments. Conducting an analysis that maps out potential co-benefits and trade-offs among these various objectives can establish a solid foundation for building a set of national targets that serve all three of these agendas. This analysis can then be used to develop an integrated national implementation plan for reaching these targets, which reflects national priorities and maximizes international and domestic financial resources, including development and climate financing. Participation of all stakeholders is critical, as is strengthening organizational and institutional capacities (see module C1).