FAO urges "hand-in-hand" approach to hunger and climate change

Focus on agriculture, forestry and healthy soils can help push back "tipping point" for many poor people

1 December 2015, Paris - Providing support to developing countries and their agricultural sectors is essential for the global goals of eradicating hunger and tackling the challenges of climate change, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in Paris today.

As world leaders gather to discuss commitments necessary to prevent average temperatures from rising by more than two degrees, "we are already crossing tipping points for families and communities," he said at the UN Climate Summit COP21.

Poor family farmers are being driven off their land by prolonged drought, coastal fishing communities are losing their homes due to rising sea levels, and pastoralists are being forced to migrate in search of grazing lands, Graziano da Silva said. "These are not distant scenarios. All this is happening now," he added.

That the poor and most vulnerable peoples are already suffering from the brunt of climate changes they did the least to cause is "clearly an injustice," he said.

Graziano da Silva spoke at a special event on agriculture co-organized by France and FAO and held under the aegis of the Lima-Paris Action Agenda that showcased existing solutions to the challenges of climate change, including FAO's Blue Growth Initiative and its Save Food Initiative.

At a related event focusing on forestry, FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo noted the importance of forests in responding to climate change and reducing hunger and poverty and responding to climate change. It is important to make sure that high quality research and analyses is actually used, she said.

A hand-in-hand approach

FAO argues that hunger and climate change must be tackled "hand-in-hand," at the same time, an approach that requires building more sustainable, productive and resilient agricultural sectors, Graziano da Silva said. Actions geared to that end can transform human lives and also "cut across the usual distinction between adaptation and mitigation," he added.

While the inhabitants of the 50 poorest countries are responsible for less than one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), many developing nations have prominently focused on their agricultural sectors as part of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) that all countries are required to formulate.

Wealthier nations must now support their less developed peers to "bring their INDCs to life," Graziano da Silva said, saying the international community can help them move to the next stage by identifying "specific adaptation strategies, finance opportunities, technology transfer and robust data collection and monitoring."

FAO is ready to support its members in implementing their plans and help them "seize the transformative potential" of resilient agricultural sectors, he added.

Noting how many problems - climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, women's empowerment along with food security - are intertwined, Graziano da Silva quoted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon: "Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all."

"At FAO we firmly believe that sustainable agriculture is certainly one of these solutions," he said.

It is now time to act after more than two decades of talking about climate change, he said. "This Conference (COP21) must be the beginning of a new era on how to tackle climate change. We have a long way ahead" he said.

Healthy soils

"Sustainable soil management will benefit all and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Agenda by 2030," Graziano da Silva said at another event launching the "4 pour mille initiative," a French-led voluntary action plan seeking to raise soil carbon stocks by 0.4 percent a year in order to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide while also boosting soil fertility.

The initiative, which endorses the application of agrocecology and related agricultural practices, calls on states, local authorities, companies, farmers' organizations, non-governmental organizations and research institutes to commit to farming methods that maintain or enhance soil carbon stock wherever possible, and to preserve carbon-rich soils.

Photo: ©FAO/Munir Uz Zaman
Rising sea levels are spurring increasing migration by coastal communities.