FAO is “working against time” on climate change, Director-General emphasizes

QU Dongyu participates in consultation with Members on developing a new FAO thematic climate change strategy

8 September 2021, Rome - Sustainable agri-food systems are a "critical part of the actions and solutions" to the climate crisis, food insecurity and biodiversity loss, which are global crises the world is facing today, Director-General QU Dongyu told Members of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today.

The Director-General insisted on the need for speed. "We are working against time because we need to be more effective, more efficient and more innovative than climate change," Qu said in remarks opening an informal consultation with Members on the development of a new thematic FAO climate change strategy.

He pointed to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), calling it a "reality check for us all" and noting that devastating floods in Northern Europe, the United States of America and China, along with uncontrollable wildfires from Canada to Siberia drove home the severity of the climate crisis, whose impacts are projected to continue intensively unless we take immediate, ambitious and bold action.

"Green and climate resilient agri-food systems are fundamental to resolving the climate crisis," the Director-General said. "We need to provide nutritious food with a low carbon footprint, in a sustainable manner," he said. The new FAO Strategy on Climate Change will focus on building agri-food systems that produce more food with more socio-economic benefits, but less impact on the environment and natural resources, generate rural development and better livelihoods, Qu said.

Members requested a new fit-for-purpose strategy to supersede FAO's first such plan in 2017. Today' meeting is part of an inclusive consultation process also engaging key stakeholders groups and all relevant FAO work streams.at Headquarters and Decentralized Offices.

The meeting was chaired by Hans Hoogeveen, Independent Chairperson of the FAO Council, and featured presentations by Abdallah Mokssit, Secretary of the IPCC, and FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.

The new strategy will be fully aligned with four new FAO thematic strategies - on private sector engagement, on mainstreaming biodiversity, on science and innovation and on corporate environmental responsibility.. All of these strategies are critical for FAO to deliver on its overarching Strategic Framework 2022-2031 and for Members to tackle the climate crisis and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said.

"We need game-changing innovative and wise solutions based on collaboration and partnerships to transform agri-food systems to MORE efficient, MORE inclusive, MORE resilient and MORE sustainable," the Director-General said.

What is to be done?

The new thematic strategy is being formulated after a  comprehensive evaluation of the 2017 Strategy on Climate Change and FAO's contribution to SDG13 (climate action).

The new strategy will ensure that climate action is mainstreamed into all offices, divisions and levels and all phases of project cycles.

"It is not only climate change, it is a climate crisis," Director-General Qu said.

FAO has made substantial contributions to help Members make progress on SDG13, which calls for "urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts."  FAO played a galvanizing role in the inclusion of agriculture in global climate change negotiations and linking agriculture to National  Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally  Determined Contributions (NDCs), key channels for compliance with the Paris Agreement.

The evaluation also found that while FAO's knowledge products and monitoring tools - such as the AquaCrop water productivity model, the Tool for Agroecology Performance Evaluation, Agorecological Zoning and geospatial tools such as OpenForis and SEPAL - are widely used for climate action by external stakeholders, they should also be more optimally utilized internally.

Moreover, many FAO activities - such as those focused on reducing Food Loss and Waste  - while not formally linked to SDG13, have large potential contributions to make to tackling the climate crisis. FAO has been successively supporting Members in accessing climate finance from the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environmental Facility to develop projects on the ground.

Photo: ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito
Clockwise from top left: FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, FAO Council Independent Chairperson Hans Hoogeveen, FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo, IPPC Secretary Abdallah Mokssit.