The Development Law Service

Mainstreaming climate change across work of the Development Law Serice and FAO


FAO is renewing and strengthening its efforts to meet the global climate emergency with its new Strategy on Climate Change and related action plan, which are expected to be endorsed by the FAO Council in June 2022.  The Strategy will provide FAO with a vision and a shared accountability framework for positioning agrifood systems and FAO’s work at the forefront of global efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change.

The Strategy, though still in draft form, recognizes that one of the pre-requisites for successful climate action by FAO is that it deliver efficiently.  In this regard, it recognizes the need for FAO to be adequately staffed and financed “in order to efficiently respond to the increasing needs at global, regional, country and local levels. This will include, for example, investment in in-house capacity and human resources development, enhanced collaboration, coordination and communication of climate work and knowledge management, new initiatives as well as innovative public and private partnerships, strengthened climate finance mobilization and mainstreaming climate change in FAO areas of work”.

What will this mean for the Development Law Service (LEGN) and for FAO offices and units at large?

LEGN has contributed to the thought and wording of the draft Strategy document, ensuring that adequate attention is devoted to the role of legal and institutional frameworks as one of the governance tools through which to assist Members in meeting their climate goals and commitments.  This has resulted in the Strategy positing that Action at the Country Level (Pillar B) aims to build Members’ capacities for climate action so that they are in a better position to “[…]  mainstream climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation in their policies and legislation, plans, programmes, practices and domestic and international investments across agrifood systems, including through FAO country programming frameworks and the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework.”  
In order to achieve the above, the Strategy states that FAO will provide policy and legal support by:

  • promoting the mainstreaming of climate change considerations into national and subnational policies, legal and institutional frameworks, strategies and development and financing plans and budgeting across agri-food systems, national social protection systems and other key sectors, as appropriate;
  • supporting countries in incorporating agrifood systems considerations into their national strategies and plans, including NAPs, NDCs, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies, disaster risk reduction plans and humanitarian response plans; and
  • promoting policy and legal reforms that support and enable climate resilience, adaptation and mitigation”.

The above framework provides LEGN with renewed impetus to seek collaboration opportunities to implement its own Strategy on Law and Climate Change. The LEGN strategy has recently been revised and updated in light of the new Strategic Framework 2022-2031 and the new corporate Strategy on Climate Change.

LEGN provides advice and technical support to Members for the development of tailor-made legal instruments across all areas under FAO’s mandate, using a participatory and multi-disciplinary approach. Sound legal and institutional frameworks are essential to achieve sustainable agricultural development and food security. Whether the area of focus is land rights, water quality, plant and animal health, livestock management, forestry or fisheries, well-designed laws, functioning legal institutions and well-informed stakeholders play a crucial role.  It will be important for LEGN to begin thinking of specific ways in which climate change considerations can be mainstreamed into its technical and normative work. This will have to be done in collaboration with the Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment (OCB), FAO technical units, decentralized offices, the technical network on climate change and project teams that LEGN collaborates with. Mainstreaming climate change into the work of LEGN would ensure that all technical legal advice that it develops through projects or otherwise would also include or reflect climate change considerations.  For example, advice given to a Member on legislating for sustainable small-scale fisheries may also include legal provisions designed to ensure that small-scale fishers are given the means to adapt to changing climate conditions.  Or, legal advice on animal health and feed regulations may also include provisions promoting or requiring climate-smart livestock practices.

A climate change focal point network?

We have seen that efforts to mainstream gender equality across FAO’s work and offices have produced positive results over the years.  These efforts are supported by an overall FAO Policy on Gender Equality which provides, among other things, for an organization-wide network of gender focal points, whose individual role it is to ensure that their respective units promote and integrate gender considerations into their work, and report on their yearly action plans.

It would perhaps be useful for FAO to consider adopting the same approach to mainstream climate change.  Like gender, climate change is clearly a cross-cutting issue. The creation of an organization-wide network of climate change focal points, with yearly action plans and coordinated reporting mechanisms would go a long way in establishing an organization-wide accountability system that would support the implementation of the FAO Strategy on Climate Change, in all its aspects.  

Valerie Johnston