Beijing, China, 17 - 21 May 2004


Table of contents


“Climate change refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.” (IPCC, 2001a)

1. Based on assessments by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is widespread consensus that climate changes are taking place, caused by a man-made increase in concentration of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere, in addition to other, natural factors. Greenhouse gases (GHG) include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour; they prevent heat (infrared radiation) from escaping to outer space and will eventually cause global warming.

2. Climate change poses an important responsibility for national and international bodies to develop means to mitigate, adapt and respond to this phenomenon.

3. It is the purpose of this paper to provide overall information – mainly based on scientific and technical IPCC assessments - on potential climate change impacts, especially as it applies to the mandate of FAO in the Asia and Pacific Region.

4. This document includes: (1) an overview of recent FAO climate-related activities; (2) a description of the links between climate changes and agriculture; (3) the mechanisms of climate change impacts on crops, livestock, forests and fisheries; (4) regional Impacts in the Asia and Pacific Regions; (5) options for action; and (6) conclusions.


5. Given the role of climate variability in agricultural production, FAO has had a long-standing involvement with climate issues, often in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP).

6. The World Food Summit Plan of Action (WFSPA, 1986), underlined that the resource base for food, agriculture, fisheries and forestry is under stress and threatened by problems such as climate change that can exacerbate climate variability, one of the main factors behind the inter-annual instability of food production. With the aim of countering the environmental threats to food security, the WFSPA encouraged governments to take the anticipated impacts of climate variability and climate change on rainfall patterns and temperature into account in developing agricultural and land-use policies.

7. Documents on Climate Change were submitted in 2001 to the 14th session of the Committee on Forestry (Challenges and Opportunities for the Forestry Sector under the Kyoto Protocol) and to the 16th session of the Committee on Agriculture (Climate Variability and Change: a Challenge for Sustainable Agricultural Production). The Committee on Agriculture (COAG) supported the proposal to develop an integrated climate change programme consistent with the requirements of the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the work of the IPCC. This was endorsed by the 120th Session of the FAO Council in June 2001 (CL 120/REP). In September 2003, the Director-General announced the formal establishment of an Interdepartmental Working Group on Climate Change (DG Bulletin 2003/39). FAO has thus a clear mandate in this increasingly important topic.

8. The IDWG comprises members appointed by all Departments concerned with climate change issues. Its terms of reference include the development of normative and methodological approaches integrating climate change impact, mitigation and adaptation aspects into agricultural, forestry, fisheries, social, and economic activities, and provide technical support to member countries on questions related to climate change. It coordinates FAO’s involvement in the implementation of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol and the collaboration with other partners working in this field.

9. The Director-General’s Bulletin also calls for a coordinated climate programme to be developed to support FAO activities, to focus on policy formulation, data, capacity building, and collaboration with UNFCCC and IPCC. It also calls for the strengthening of several fields, such as sequestering carbon, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, substituting fossil fuels by biofuels, and generally improving the resilience of agriculture to climate variability and change.

10. A number of technical outputs have been produced by FAO on climate change. They include the harmonization of forest-related definitions for the use of different stakeholders; methodologies and models on carbon sequestration in soils, crops, grasslands and forest areas; and methodologies to promote productive uses of renewable energy, with emphasis on bioenergy.

11. The IDWG has repeatedly referred to the need to enhance the regional dimension of its work.


12. While agriculture is likely to be one of the victims of climate change, it is also a contributor of greenhouse gas emissions and, directly and indirectly, contributes to the disruption of natural cycles of many elements and water through land degradation and deforestation. At the same time, it has a great potential to contribute substantially to climate change mitigation.

13. An estimated 25 percent of carbon dioxide stems from agricultural sources (deforestation and other land-use changes: 20 percent; biomass burning: 5 percent). There is more uncertainty about the magnitude of sources of methane: about 70 percent are estimated to be man-made, of which 20 percent each derive from domestic ruminants, biomass burning and rice production. Natural wetland could be responsible for about the same emissions as rice fields. The majority of nitrous oxides derive from agricultural activities: 44 percent from tillage, 22 percent from fertiliser and 9 percent from biomass burning. Agricultural sources appear to be declining relative to fossil fuel use.

14. The reduction of Greenhouse gases emissions from agriculture through more efficient agropractices, such as low tillage, integrated pest management and organic fertilizer, and through the substitution of fossil fuels by bioenergy, represent important opportunities for climate change mitigation.


15. Biophysical impacts of climate change are complex, as they include changes in averages of climate parameters and their variability and physical and biological effects, as with temperature rise and carbon dioxide increases. The pace of the changes is also very relevant as some species (especially natural forest) cannot follow shifting climate zones as easily as cultivated species and many animals. Even if the impact mechanisms can be assessed with some degree of certainty, their combined effect is usually affected by large uncertainties. The following list includes the most certain impacts:

16. Potential impacts of climate change on agricultural production will depend not only on climate per se, but also on the internal dynamics of agricultural systems. In comparison with the more evident biophysical impacts on plants and animals, global impacts of climate change on food production and food security may include: marked changes in the geographic distribution of major crop production zones (agro-economic zones) and their associated land-use patterns, possibly resulting in a modification of the crop geopolitical balance, including a potential net positive impact on production in developed temperate countries and a negative impact in tropical developing countries. Natural systems most at risk include glaciers, coral reefs and atolls, mangroves, boreal and tropical forests, polar and alpine ecosystems, prairie wetlands, and remnant native grasslands. While some species might increase in abundance or range, or might adapt to changes in their environment, climate change will increase existing risks of extinction of some of the more vulnerable species and a loss of biodiversity.


Latitudinal and altitudinal shifts in ecological and agroeconomic zones

17. An increase in surface temperature would cause a poleward3 shift of crop zones, having favourable effects on agriculture in the cold northernmost regions in continental Asia. Similarly, there will be northward shifts of subtropical crop areas in temperate Asia. Shifts in the distribution of species in high-elevation ecosystems to higher elevations will result in the extinction of some species because the rates of vegetation change are slow and colonization success is constrained by increased erosion and highly dissected and steep terrains in the Himalayan mountain range. Depending on regional climate and local biological and topographic parameters, pronounced warming in the high latitudes of Asia could lead to thinning or disappearance of permafrost locations. Poleward movement of the southern boundary of periodic permafrost areas is likely in Mongolia and northeast China, affecting agricultural development.

Land degradation

18. In a context where land availability, land degradation, price shocks, and population growth are already a major concern for sustained agricultural productivity, changes in temperature, precipitation and climatic extremes will only add to the stress on agricultural resources. Arable land is already limited in the arid and semi-arid regions in Asia, which makes agriculture potentially highly vulnerable to climate change. Most of the land suitable for cultivation in Asia is already in use and by 2010 per capita availability of land in developing countries of Asia will shrink from the present 0.8 ha to about 0.3 ha affecting countries like India, with the largest area under cereal cultivation, and China, with the largest production of cereals because of higher average productivity. The per capita area of harvest has consistently decreased.

Extreme geophysical factors

19. Extreme geophysical factors such as floods, droughts and cyclones are common in tropical Asia. In China, droughts in 1972, 1978 and 1997 have been recorded as the most serious and extensive. A large number of severe floods also have occurred in China. Severe flooding with daily rainfall exceeding 25 cm struck during July and August in 1998 in Korea. In Japan, drought disasters are significantly more frequent during years following El Niņo Southern Oscillation (ENSO) warm events than in normal years. In Bangladesh, floods of recent years have covered around 3.1 Mha; the total flood-prone area in India is about 40 Mha. In Bangladesh, about 2.7 Mha are vulnerable to drought annually. Drought or near drought conditions also occur in parts of Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia, especially during El Niņo years. In India, Lao PDR, the Philippines and Viet Nam drought disasters are more frequent during years following ENSO events. Drought frequency and consequent stresses on agriculture are likely to increase in parts of Australia and New Zealand as a result of higher temperatures and possibly more frequent El Niņo events. Inter-annual variations in temperature and rainfall are strongly associated with ENSO, resulting in water shortages and drought in Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, American Samoa, Samoa and Fiji.

Water availability

20. Water availability is expected to be highly sensitive to climate change.

21. Shifts in precipitation patterns will affect crops, and particularly rice, in many countries in Asia. The combination of elevated temperature and decreased precipitation in arid and semi-arid rangelands could cause a reduction of irrigation water availability and a manifold increase in potential evapotranspiration, leading to severe water-stress conditions (IPCC, 2001a). Surface water and groundwater resources are fundamental to livestock production, inland fisheries, forestry, agriculture and industrial activity. The water and agriculture sectors are likely to be the most sensitive to climate change-induced impacts in Asia. In temperate Asia summer rainfall seems to have declined in the Gobi, and the number of days with heavy rainfall dropped significantly. In China, Kazakhastan and Thailand annual precipitation has been decreasing continuously. In northwest India, part of tropical Asia, there has been an increase in extreme rainfall events in recent decades during the summer monsoon. In Bangladesh, rainfall decadal departures have been much above normal after 1960, and in Pakistan a tendency toward increasing rainfall in monsoon season was observed. Drier conditions are anticipated for most of Australia over the twenty-first century leading to more droughts. A reduction of livestock and crop yields in most tropical and subtropical regions due to changes in temperature and rainfall is likely to affect countries in the region because of their limited human, institutional and financial capacity to anticipate and respond to direct and indirect effects of climate change.

22. Agriculture productivity will also be affected by large increases in runoff: the volume of runoff from glaciers in central Asia is expected to increase threefold by 2050 (IPCC, 2001a). As mountain glaciers disappear, summer runoff diminishes, and downstream agriculture – which is dependent on summer runoff for irrigation – will be negatively affected. With the decrease in irrigation, low and mid-lying parts of Asia are likely to become more arid interior deserts.

Sea level rise and salinization

23. Sea level is projected to rise by about 50 cm (average scenario) between now and 2100. Although the full extent of the combined effect of climate change impacts and sea level rise are far from certain, adverse consequences are projected for many low small islands, low-lying coastal areas as well as many deltas, in particular the Mekhna-Brahmaputra delta in Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam. The combined effect may include coastal erosion and land loss, flooding, and intrusion of saltwater into aquifers. The quantity and quality of available water supplies can affect agricultural production and human health, as can be seen from the table below.

Table 1: Potential land loss and population exposed in Asian countries for selected magnitudes of sea level rise, assuming no adaptation (IPCC 2001a, p.49)


Sea level rise

Potential land loss

Population exposed









15 668






29 846






5 763






34 000






1 412






7 000






1 700




Viet Nam


40 000




24. Sea level rise is one of the likely causes of salinization. In Australia, natural salinity and high water tables have always been present. However, changes in land management, mainly due to land clearing and irrigation, have resulted in a higher concern for salinity. Loss of agricultural land to salinity will mean great economic losses.

Crop agriculture

25. Agricultural productivity in the Asia and the Pacific Region is likely to suffer losses because of high temperature, drought, floods, and soil degradation: food security of many countries in the region would be under threat. Agricultural productivity is affected significantly by prolonged dry spells or thermal stress from heat-wave conditions happening in critical life stages of the crop. Yield losses that may affect agricultural productivity in general and be detrimental to the supply of food, may end up being somewhat beneficial to growers as prices rise with greater demand for a product that is scarcer.4 However, economic losses may be more manageable than environmental and human losses because economies adjust themselves from both the producers and the consumers’ sides.

26. As indicated above, the interaction of many factors will eventually condition the impact of climate change on Asian agriculture, forests, livestock, rangeland and fisheries. Areas in mid- and high latitudes will experience increases in crop yield, whereas yields in lower latitudes will generally decrease. Severe water-stress conditions combined with thermal stress could adversely affect wheat and rice productivity in India, notwithstanding the projected positive effects of elevated carbon dioxide.

27. Declines in self-sufficiency for grains have been particularly dramatic for countries with advanced economies; it has fallen below 30 percent in recent years. For example, between 1970 and 1996 grain self-sufficiency has fallen from 45 to 27 percent in Japan, from 68 to 31 percent in Korea, from 61 to 19 percent in Taiwan (China), and from 60 to 25 percent in Malaysia (FAO, 1996). The rapid decline in grain self-sufficiency in these countries is unprecedented in any region of the world. Declines in grain self-sufficiency have also been observed in the Philippines, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Significant changes in crop yields, production, storage and distribution are expected in the region as a result of the impacts of climate change.

Economic losses due to changes in production and trade

28. Economies of developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region traditionally offer only limited employment alternatives for workers dislocated by the changing profitability of farming, and other climatically sensitive sectors may be relatively more vulnerable than a more diverse economy. Those who are currently poor, malnourished and dependent on local production for food are the most vulnerable in terms of hunger and malnutrition to climate change. Existing vulnerabilities will be exacerbated by a superimposition of climate change, a reduced access to drinking water, and reduced income, negatively affecting the health and overall well-being of people, leading to a further stress by forced migration.

29. Studies have shown that the growing gap between supply and demand for grains, such as wheat and rice, especially in Asia, will result in increased dependence on imports. The balance in the decrease in food production in some areas by the gains in other areas may diminish the economic impacts, but these projections should be attentively analysed, as they do not necessarily balance inter-country and intracountry production impacts and the distribution of food resources. Furthermore, they do not account for and stabilize conditions resulting from indirect impacts on human livelihoods.

30. A major fraction of exports from both Australia and New Zealand are agricultural and forestry products, production of which is sensitive to any changes in climate, water availability, carbon dioxide fertilization, and pests and diseases. Returns from these commodities could be affected by the projected increase in agricultural production in mid- to high latitude northern hemisphere countries and result in impacts on commodity prices and world trade (IPCC, 2001a).

31. Pacific countries have a high level of economic and cultural dependence on their natural environment. In this region, two of the main economic activities are agriculture and fishing, and for a large part of the population, these sectors remain the sole source of income and exports. Trends that directly affect the livelihoods of rural minorities such as soil loss, reduced water quality and the sedimentation of lagoon areas, exacerbated by loss of forest cover, forest degradation, and deforestation in favour of agricultural production, present major environmental problems for the Pacific Islands. Drastic changes in climate affect income strategies where economic diversification and income opportunities and options for developing alternative livelihoods as a response to climatic changes are low.

Livestock and rangelands

32. Pasture species are subjected to the same influences as crops. For instance, positive factors such as carbon dioxide fertilization and better water use efficiency are contrasted by negative factors associated with higher temperatures, so that the resulting changes in nutritional quality of fodder is largely open to debate. IPCC (1997) concludes that rangeland forage quality is likely to decrease at some times of year–suggesting an increased need for feed supplements or legume pastures.

33. In temperate areas, temperature increases may lead to an increase in pasture production in mid-latitudes, with corresponding increases in livestock production.

34. In general, unhoused livestock are expected to benefit from warmer winters, possibly extended growing seasons, and possible minor improvements in feed quality in temperate high-rainfall zones. Greater summer heat stress is likely to occur as well, and to negatively affect animals.

35. Also, livestock diseases are much influenced by climate change induced modification of environmental conditions. This may concern the transmission of wind borne Foot and Mouth Disease viruses, infections transmitted with the aid of ticks, flies, mosquitoes, midges and other arthropods. The migration and spread of birds may change and affect the geographical coverage of diseases such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, which may also affect humans, or West Nile Virus (currently expanding across the northern hemisphere of the Americas and expected to soon invade most of western Europe, also posing a threat to human health). Also, the transmission cycle of most parasitic infestations is expected to become altered. For example, snails surviving in marshland transmit liverfluke to ruminant livestock. Climate change brings disease, and while the pattern will be difficult to predict, epidemics form a certainty.


36. IPCC (1997) underlines that, whereas a wheat farmer stands to lose one year’s production in a climatic disaster, a forester may have at risk a full 30 years’ growth. Furthermore, the long time scale means there are less frequent opportunities to apply adaptation options to any particular forest. Slower growing indigenous forests will be more affected than fast-rotation exotic forest plantations.

37. Forests play a major part in the economies of many countries of the region. It is often overlooked that even some islands are covered by forests and other woodlands. For instance, forest and woodland cover in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji is more than 60 percent of the total land area.

38. Asia suffered a net loss of 20.3 Mio ha of forests during the 1990’s; roughly, this contributed 1.5 Gigatons of carbon emissions to the atmosphere, not counting additional emissions from forest degradation and fires. Climate change is likely to enhance the frequency and intensity of forest fires in the region, exacerbating an already pronounced problem of emissions, haze and habitat destruction. Asian-Pacific mangrove forests, sensitive ecosystems with important protective functions for biodiversity, fisheries and coastlines would be affected strongly by rising water levels. More generally, all forest trees with their long life cycles are finely tuned and react highly sensitively to changes in temperature, moisture, and evaporation. As a vegetation form, they can migrate only very slowly. Asia may experience forest dieback and a shrinking of certain forest types, for instance the tropical rain forests of the region with their important functions for human populations, environment and development.

39. Tropical forests might be affected more by anthropogenic forces than by climate change per se, if deforestation continues at current rates. The factors listed for plants and crops in general also largely apply to forests. CO2 fertilization is likely to increase growth, especially when trees are water limited. Studies of the potential regional impacts of climate change on the forests and forestry of tropical Asia are limited. The area of subtropical forests could decline whereas that of tropical forests could increase. A northward shift of tropical wet forests into areas currently occupied by tropical dry forests is also projected.

40. A depletion of soil moisture may cause the productivity of major species, such as teak, to decline. The productivity of moist deciduous forests also could be reduced.

41. As mentioned, deforestation has increased in tropical Asia. IPCC quotes studies according to which deforestation may compound climate change impacts by producing some disturbances of monsoon circulation over the Southeast Asian region and modified fire risk patterns, especially in Australia and semi-arid regions.

42. IPCC (1997) stresses that, in Australasia, plantation seedling establishment may be affected negatively. On the positive side, where major exotic weeds are C4 plants (as in New Zealand), the competitive effects may be reduced if elevated CO2 concentration favours growth of C3 over C4 plants in temperate zones.

43. There is also potential for changes in the frequency and intensity of damaging events from wind and storms, particularly in New Zealand, and increased incidence of arthropod pests and diseases.

Freshwater and ocean fisheries

44. For marine fisheries, slight changes in environmental variables – such as temperature, salinity, wind speed and direction, ocean currents, and upwelling strength – can sharply alter the abundance of fish populations though changes of oxygen solubility in water, nutrient availability, changes in the migration patterns of fish species, outbreaks of bloom-forming algae, etc. Rises in sea level also may cause saline water fronts to penetrate further inland, which could increase the habitat of brackish-water fisheries. Coastal inundation also could damage the aquaculture industry.

45. It is one of the characteristics of tropical Asia that large sections of the population consume freshwater fish. IPCC (1997) stresses that few studies have been done on the possible impact of climate change on fisheries in the region, despite the fact that commercial and subsistence marine and freshwater fisheries and aquaculture account for a sizeable fraction of the GNP and play an important role in the food security of many countries in the region.

46. It is extremely difficult to predict how climate change may affect Australasia’s fish stocks and fishing industry, particularly in the context of the present stresses on fish stocks. A 1996 IPCC study concluded that although global marine fisheries production may remain about the same – despite possible changes in dominant species – there are likely to be collapses and expansions of specific regional fisheries. These conclusions may likewise apply to large oceanic regions like Australasia, though current knowledge is not adequate to predict the impacts on total productivity. While mobile high-seas fishing fleets are less likely to be affected by climate change, small-scale fishers, who are dependent on specific in-shore fisheries, may be more exposed to large gains and large losses if fish populations shift their areas of abundance.

47. Aquaculture and freshwater fisheries at mid-latitudes may benefit from longer growing seasons, lower natural winter mortality, and faster growth rates.

48. Fishing, although largely artisanal or small-scale commercial fishing, is an important activity on most small islands. The modest temperature increases projected for these regions are not anticipated to have a widespread adverse effect on small island fisheries, with some exceptions such as higher frequencies of hypersalinity in lagoons. IPCC reports stress that clam fisheries could be negatively affected by higher sea temperature. Generally, fisheries in the small island states are not expected to be adversely affected by sea level rise per se. A higher sea level would be a critical factor for fisheries only if the rate of rise were far more rapid than current projections suggest. In such circumstances, the natural succession of coastal ecosystems on which some species depend (e.g., mangroves, seagrasses, corals) would be disrupted.

Vulnerability and adaptive capacity in Asia and the Pacific region

49. Vulnerability5 to climate change in the Asia and the Pacific region varies greatly as a function of the current climate,6 economic and ecological structures, magnitude and rate of projected climate change, the capacity to adapt technologically, strength of institutions, know-how, education and financial capacities.

50. Table 2 (based on IPCC studies) shows the degree of vulnerability of various sectors to climate change as a function of the main climatic and physiographic areas. With a high level of confidence, most sectors are highly vulnerable.

Table 2: Vulnerability of different Asian sectors related to agricultural production
(Adapted from IPCC 2001a, p.48)


Food and fibre

Water resources

Coastal ecosystems

Arid and semi-arid Asia

Central Asia

Highly vulnerable

Highly vulnerable

Moderately vulnerable

Tibetan Plateau

Slightly or not vulnerable

Moderately vulnerable

Not applicable

Temperate Asia

Highly vulnerable

Highly vulnerable

Highly vulnerable

Tropical Asia and small island states

South Asia

Highly vulnerable

Highly vulnerable

Highly vulnerable

Southeast Asia

Highly vulnerable

Highly vulnerable

Highly vulnerable

Table 3: Impacts of climate change, vulnerability and adaptive capacity
(Adapted from IPCC 2001a, p. 14, 15, and 17)

Impacts of climate change, vulnerability, and adaptive capacity


Likely regional impacts of climate change

Vulnerability and adaptive capacity


Extreme events have increased in temperate Asia, including floods, droughts, forest fires, and tropical cyclones.

Adaptive capacity varies between countries depending on social structure, culture, economic capacity, and level of environmental degradation.

Thermal and water stress, floods, drought, sea level rise, and tropical cyclones would diminish food security in countries of arid, tropical, and temperate Asia.

Areas of concern include water and agriculture sectors, food security, biodiversity conservation and natural resource management, coastal zone management, and infrastructure.

Agriculture would expand and increase in productivity in northern areas.

Capacity is increasing in parts of Asia, for example the success of early warning systems for extreme weather events in Bangladesh, but is still constrained due to poor resource bases, inequalities in income, weak institutions, and limited technology.

Reduced soil moisture in the summer may increase land degradation and desertification.

Sea level rise and an increase in intensity of tropical cyclones would displace tens of millions of people in low-lying coastal areas of temperate and tropical Asia.


Australia and New Zealand

The net impact on some temperate crops of climate and carbon dioxide changes may initially be beneficial, but this balance is expected to become negative for some areas and crops with further climate change (medium confidence).

Adaptive capacity of human systems is generally high, but there are groups in Australia and New Zealand, such as indigenous peoples, with low capacity to adapt and consequently high vulnerability.

Water is likely to be a key issue (high confidence) due to projected drying trends over much of the region and change to a more El Niņo-like average state.


Increases in the intensity of heavy rains and tropical cyclones (medium confidence), and region-specific changes in the frequency of tropical cyclones, would alter the risks to life, property, and ecosystems from flooding, storm surges, and wind damage.


Some species with restricted climatic niches and which are unable to migrate due to fragmentation of the landscape, soil differences, or topography could become endangered or extinct (high confidence).

Australian ecosystems particularly vulnerable to climate change include coral reefs, arid and semi-arid habitats in southwest and inland Australia, and alpine systems. Freshwater wetlands in coastal zones in both Australia and New Zealand are vulnerable, and some New Zealand ecosystems are vulnerable to accelerated invasion by weeds.

Island States

The projected sea level rise of five millimetres per year for the next 100 years would cause enhanced soil erosion, loss of land, poverty, dislocation of people, increased risk from storm surges, reduced resilience of coastal ecosystems, saltwater intrusion into freshwater resources, and high resource costs to respond to, and adapt to, changes.

Adaptive capacity of human systems is generally low in small island states, and vulnerability high; likely to be among the countries most seriously impacted by climate change.

Areas of concern are food security, water resources, agriculture, biodiversity and coastal management, and tourism.

Coral reefs would be negatively affected by bleaching and reduced calcification rates due to higher carbon dioxide levels; mangrove, sea grass bed, and other coastal ecosystems and the associated biodiversity would be adversely affected by rising temperatures and accelerated sea level rise.

Inlands with very limited water supplies are highly vulnerable to impacts of climate change on the water balance.

Declines in coastal ecosystems would have a negative impact on reef fish and threaten reef fisheries, those who earn their livelihoods from reef fisheries, and those who rely on fisheries as a significant food source.


Limited arable land and soil salinization make agriculture of small islands, both for domestic food production and cash crop exports, highly vulnerable to climate change.


Tourism, an important source of income and foreign exchange for many islands, would face severe disruption from climate change and sea level rise.


51. COAG/01/5 stressed that FAO and its member countries face several challenges directly or indirectly deriving from the current climate negotiations. In particular, the Kyoto Protocol (KP) deals explicitly with the subject and puts special emphasis on sustainable management practices and the promotion of sustainable forms of agriculture in the light of climate change considerations.

52. Articles of the KP of relevance to the agricultural community include the sections on afforestation, deforestation and reforestation (Article 3.3) as well as other sources and sinks, including soil and biomass storage (Article 3.4) and their estimation (Article 5). Other relevant articles are tradable permits (Article 6), annual reporting (Article 7), review and control mechanisms (Article 8), improved methodologies to assess emissions and sinks (Article 10), and especially the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) which is described in Article 12.

53. The double purpose of the CDM is to assist developing Parties in achieving sustainable development, and developed Parties in achieving compliance with their emission limitations and reduction commitments. The CDM will allow Annex I Parties and Non-annex I Parties to jointly implement projects that will result in certified emission limitations. This mechanism complements the tradable permits approach between Annex I Parties. While details of the implementation of the CDM are still being debated, its potential as a sustainable development mechanism has to be carefully assessed.

54. It is clear that international climate negotiations offer: new opportunities linked with the fact that carbon has now become a new ‘commodity’. This provides a renewed justification for several activities in which the Organization has been involved.

New Opportunities

55. Most countries in the Asia-Pacific region are eligible to participate in the Clean Development Mechanism, which accepts afforestation and reforestation as eligible activities. Planted forests may help to counteract negative effects of climate change on natural forests. FAO has embarked on a process of building the necessary capacity for the CDM in developing countries, including those in Asia.

56. Besides the forestry sector, other opportunities will most probably materialise in the following areas:

Renewed justification

57. A broad range of geo-referenced data is collected and maintained by FAO, which is of direct relevance not only to the climate change problem, but also to the more immediate operational (reporting) requirements of countries under the UNFCCC. They include:


58. Based on the fragmentary analyses that are currently possible, IPCC perceives climate change as an imminent threat that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, particularly in areas threatened by sea level rise. In the FAO context, efforts to mitigate climate change and to enhance the resilience of rural populations and their livelihoods to climate variability and climate change impacts can be considered in line with efforts to achieve higher levels of sustainability.

59. Several areas for action constitute opportunities for the countries in the Asia and Pacific region in the context of international negotiations. The following can be highlighted:


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1 CO2 fertilization is the enhancement of the growth of plants as a result of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Depending on their mechanism of photosynthesis, certain types of plants are more sensitive to changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration. In particular, C3 plants generally show a larger response to CO2 than C4 plants.
2 Vernalization is the requirement of some temperate cereal crops, e.g. winter wheat, for a period of low winter temperatures to initiate or accelerate the flowering process. Low vernalization results in low flower bud initiation and ultimately reduced yields.
3 Northward in the northern hemisphere, southward in the southern hemisphere.
4 (Fischer et al. 2002 and Tol et al. 2002 identify an overall decrease of GDP of agriculture in developing countries (-1% (Standard deviation < 1) and Asia (-2.3% (SD < 2). Depending on the effectiveness of adaptation, Tol et al. 2002 predict negative agr.-GDP changes for all Asian-Pacific regions for no adaptation and slightly positive for adaptation cases. China shows positive results for both cases. These results are however characterized by low confidence levels). For world market prices of major food crops, Fischer et al. (2002) predict an increase for the B1 and A2 scenario and a decrease for B2 (very high standard deviations though).
5 “Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes” (IPCC, 2001a).
6 The main large categories are arid and semi-arid Asia, temperate Asia, tropical Asia, Australia and New Zealand, and the Pacific Island States.