UN climate change conference acknowledges agriculture sectors' critical role

FAO welcomes landmark decision as a major step towards implementing Paris Agreement

17 November 2017, Bonn/Rome -The United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) today recognized the importance of agriculture for the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Discussions at COP 23 have focused on ways to minimize climate change while also increasing efforts to assist developing countries, in particular, adapt to changing weather patterns.     

The closing plenary requested that the two subsidiary bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change work together on addressing issues related to agriculture, taking into consideration the vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change and approaches towards food security. These include areas of action on soil, livestock, nutrient and water management, adaptation and on the food security and socio-economic impacts of climate change across the agriculture sectors.

"Climate change is already affecting agriculture and food security and it disproportionately affects the poorest of the poor, most of whom rely on the agricultural sectors for their livelihoods. Without urgent action to adapt agriculture and meet a growing global demand for food, there will be more hungry people in the world. Today's decision is a major step to address this problem, and to enable the agricultural sectors to also engage in worldwide efforts to limit global warming," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

"It will help create an enabling environment for countries and non-state actors to conduct activities in the agricultural sectors that are key to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement," the FAO Director-General added.

He noted that FAO will continue to provide its full support to this important process by providing technical input and support to the two subsidiary bodies.

Earlier this week, Graziano da Silva speaking at COP23 called for an increase in efforts to reduce agricultural emissions and to simultaneously improve yields and build resilience. He stressed that this means adopting approaches such as agroecology and sustainable, climate-smart intensification, among others, and that smallholders, family farmers and pastoralists cannot be expected to tackle these challenges on their own.

As things stand, the pledges made thus far under the Paris Agreement are not enough to meet the target of limiting global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius this century. Even full implementation of current unconditional and conditional Nationally Determined Contributions makes a temperature increase of at least 3 degrees Celsius by 2100 very likely.

Agriculture can make a massive difference to this shortfall. No other sector holds as much potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, best practices and technologies in livestock feeding and manure management could help the global livestock sector cut is outputs of global warming gases by up to 30 percent.  

FAO's work in support of the Paris Agreement

FAO believes that hunger, poverty and climate change can be tackled together by recognizing the links between rural poverty alleviation, sustainable agriculture and strategies that boost resource-use efficiency, conserve and restore biodiversity and natural resources, and combat the impacts of climate change.

Around 90 per cent of countries' climate commitments, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), include the agricultural sectors - clearly demonstrating the fundamental contribution the sectors can bring. FAO already supports countries to better integrate the agriculture sectors in their National Adaptation Plans and in the implementation of their NDCs. 

As a member of the NDC Partnership, FAO facilitates the Thematic Working Group (TWG) on Agriculture, Food Security and Land Use. The TWG aims to support the implementation of NDCs related to agriculture, food security and land use, and to explore opportunities that can reshape the agricultural sectors to better mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Recognizing that the world cannot achieve Zero Hunger without tackling climate change, FAO is further integrating climate action into all of its work. Earlier this year, FAO released a climate change strategy that aims to deliver the climate solutions the agricultural sectors offer.

Photo: ©FAO/Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum for FAO
Hunger, poverty and climate change can be tackled together through sustainable agriculture.