Reducing hunger through climate-smart agriculture

FAO Director-General stresses key role of agriculture and forestry in tackling climate change at UN Climate Change Conference

9 December 2010, Cancun, Mexico - Boosting investment in developing world agriculture is necessary not only to reduce current levels of world hunger but to safeguard future world food supplies against the impacts of climate change, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said today at a press conference at the UN Conference on Climate Change, in Cancun, Mexico.

"We will not achieve food security without serious investment in climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction in the rural sector," said Diouf.

Food security and climate change can, and should, be addressed together, by transforming agriculture and adopting practices that are "climate-smart" to eradicate hunger from the world, he argued.

"By climate smart, we mean agriculture that sustainably increases productivity and resilience to environmental pressures, while at the same time reduces greenhouse gas emissions or removes them from the atmosphere, because we cannot ignore the fact that agriculture is itself a large emitter of greenhouse gases," he said.

The FAO head stressed that a variety of climate-smart practices already exist and are being used in some places, providing examples that could be more widely implemented in developing countries, as highlighted in an FAO report prepared in advance of the Cancun conference.

The world's population is expected to surpass 9 billion people by 2050, which will require an estimated 70 percent increase in global agricultural production.

At the same time, climate change is expected to have multiple impacts on agricultural productivity and rural incomes in areas that are already experiencing high levels of food insecurity.

Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation

Forestry and agro-forestry, sectors that hundreds of millions of rural people depend on for their livelihoods, also hold great potential for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing carbon sinks, stabilizing rural livelihoods and strengthening household food security, added Diouf.

"The biophysical mitigation potential of forests is estimated at about 64 percent of the emissions from forestry, while agriculture could provide an estimated technical mitigation potential that could reach 83-90 percent of that sectors' total emissions," he said.

The FAO chief highlighted progress made in the area of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD), an approach that uses market incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation by letting developed countries offset their own emissions by investing in REDD projects in the developing world.

The term "REDD+" is used to describe efforts to move this beyond just deforestation and forest degradation and include conservation, sustainable forest management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in such exchanges.

REDD+ could generate an estimated US$30-$100 billion worth of investement for developing countries per year.

Photo: ©FAO/Farooq Naeem
FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.