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Climate change adaptation and mitigation



Agriculture, climate change and poverty are strongly interlinked. Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions both directly through productive activities and indirectly through changes in land use. In turn the impacts of climate change are already felt in agriculture (see module A1), with specific impacts in each agricultural sector (crop production, livestock production, forestry, and fisheries and aquaculture as discussed in chapters B1 - 1.1, B2 - 1.1, B3 - 3.3, and B4 - 3.1 respectively), especially on poor populations whose livelihoods and food security are highly dependent on the climatic conditions. 

Central to globally coordinated efforts to address climate change is the Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It sets out three objectives, commonly referred to as the Paris Agreement’s mitigation, adaptation and finance goals

a) Holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change; 

b) Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and 

c) Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development.

As the demand for food and agriculture related products is expected to increase, the Paris Agreement’s mitigation goal can only be achieved if emissions from agriculture are significantly reduced alongside emissions from other economic sectors. However, while countries work towards minimizing global surface temperature increase by collectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the climate continues to change. Due to inertia inherent in the climate system, temperatures would continue to rise to some extent even if emissions were eliminated in the present. This is why, regardless of any ongoing mitigation efforts, it is essential to transform the agricultural sectors in such a way that it simultaneously reduces emissions, increases production and foster adaptation and resilience to climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement’s preamble that recognizes the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger.

Making decisions about which climate change adaptation measures may be necessary involves an understanding of what impacts climate change is likely to bring about, identifying the risks and opportunities associated with these impacts, and taking steps to address them. Specific guidance on the assessment of climate change impacts and vulnerability and appraisal of climate-smart agriculture options are discussed in module C8. Climate-smart agriculture programme monitoring and evaluation is addressed in module C9.

This module introduces the place of adaptation and mitigation in the UNFCCC process and the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by countries (chapter A2 – 1), and presents the major types of climate change impacts assessments (chapter A2 – 2). This module then provides an overview of the key concepts and approaches pertaining to both adaptation (chapter A2 – 3) and mitigation (chapter A2 – 4), including developments on the adaptation gaps and needs, as well as on the mitigation potential and cost.

Key messages

  • Both adaptation and mitigation implications must be taken into account when designing and implementing climate-smart agriculture. Depending on the context, interventions to implement climate-smart agriculture may focus more on either adaptation or mitigation, in line with the specific needs and objectives to be met.
  • Opportunities must be sought to maximise synergies and co-benefits between adaptation and mitigation. Often climate-smart agriculture can simultaneously result in adaptation, mitigation and/or productivity gains.
  • Based on countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement, the agriculture sectors are the foremost priority for adaptation. Countries highlight the vulnerability of the agriculture sectors to climate change, and reflect on the importance of disaster risk management in the agriculture sectors.
  • Agriculture and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) are among the most referenced sectors in countries’ mitigation contributions (targets and/or actions). The mitigation potential of agriculture and LULUCF is prominently acknowledged by developing countries in all regions and by all economic groupings.
  • The agriculture sectors are most often referred to in the INDCs as providing adaptation-mitigation synergies, as well as socio-economic and environmental co-benefits; and Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) is highlighted as contributing to both adaptation and mitigation.