Dramatic impact of climate change on people's lives demands response - FAO leader

Director-General briefs Italian politicians on Paris summit, says poor can’t be asked to pick up the climate change bill

23 April 2015, Rome -A strong and collective effort is needed to tackle climate change, which is already having direct and "tragic" consequences for people's lives, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told Italian lawmakers Thursday.

Climate-related factors are contributing to intensified food insecurity for many of the world's most vulnerable people -- worsening situations that were already quite dramatic, he said.

"When agriculture does not have the chance to bloom, and when food is scarce, the consequences can be dramatic," according to Graziano da Silva.

"Hunger can force people to leave families and homes in search of better opportunities that they do not always find. The loss of lives in the Mediterranean is a tragic reminder of this," the FAO Director-General said.

Similarly, the recent tropical storms in the Philippines and Vanuatu showed how quickly food crops can be destroyed by severe weather events, while recurrent droughts have an equally deadly effect, he noted.

Speaking in the Italian Parliament with Italy's Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti present, Graziano da Silva explained that FAO is especially concerned with climate change due its clear connections to food security and agriculture.

"Climate change affects agricultural production and might change the geography of food production," he said. The agricultural sector is itself a producer of greenhouse gas emissions, but also has the potential to sequester more carbon in soils and forests if sustainable production and management policies are adopted, he added.

The world needs a paradigm shift to more sustainable, inclusive and resilient food systems, which will entail making farming techniques less reliant on intensive use of inputs and natural resources.

The road to Paris

"In 2015 we need to transform political commitment into actions and results," Graziano da Silva said, referring to this year's diplomatic agenda, which includes a new set of Sustainable Development Goals and the December Conference of the Parties (COP) summit organized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"That includes ensuring the necessary funding to cover the cost of transition to food systems that mitigate and adapt, that are more sustainable and resilient to climate change," he said.

Adaptation to and mitigation of climate-change trends is a collective interest, but "we cannot present the bill to family farmers, pastoralists and agro-pastoralists in developing countries," he stressed.

And while boosting rural incomes in developing countries is a priority, richer nations also need to tackle food waste, he said, saying affluent consumers waste around 222 million tons of food every year, almost as much as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa.

Graziano da Silva hailed Italy for hosting this year's food-focused Expo in Milan, which is expected to promote the importance of food security, climate change and sustainable government.

"FAO stands ready to develop a strategic partnership with the Italian government" in preparation for the COP summit, he added.

Photo: ©FAO/L. Dematteis
Climate change has serious implications for agriculture and food security.