Transforming agrifood systems is essential to adapt to human-caused climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said following the release of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The Synthesis Report, the last of the Sixth Assessment report cycle, done in a collaborative effort between governments and scientists from all over the world, confirmed that human activities, mainly through emissions of greenhouse gases, have unequivocally caused global warming. These include unsustainable energy use, land use and land-use change, as well as consumption and production patterns.
The report underlined that 22 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions right now come from agriculture, forestry, and land use.
The synthesis also painted a clear way ahead, underscoring that the solution lies in climate-resilient development and holistic measures to adapt to climate change that also reduce or avoid greenhouse emissions.
“Agriculture and food security are already threatened by climate change, in particular in Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Land-Locked Countries, affecting the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, pastoralists, forest-dependent people, fishers, Indigenous Peoples and women,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.
“We need to act now at scale. Building sustainable and resilient agrifood systems is fundamental to tackling the climate crisis, food insecurity and biodiversity loss.”
Climate action through agri
Indeed, the IPCC scientists highlighted with high confidence that many agriculture, forestry and land use options provide adaptation and mitigation benefits that could be upscaled in the near term across most regions.
For example, they said conservation, improved management, and restoration of forests and other ecosystems offer the largest opportunity to counteract the economic damages caused by climate-related disasters.
Examples of effective adaptation options include cultivar improvements, on-farm, water management and storage, soil moisture conservation, irrigation, agroforestry, community-based adaptation, farm and landscape level diversification in agriculture and sustainable land management.
The IPCC also noted the importance of integrated approaches to meet multiple objectives, including food security, and underscores that shifting to healthy diets and reducing food waste, along with sustainable agriculture, can reduce impacts on ecosystems and free up land for reforestation and biodiversity restoration.
The synthesis also pointed out that while climate change policies and laws have improved, policy coverage remains limited in some sectors such as agriculture, and the barriers preventing the implementation of mitigation measures in agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors are financial, institutional and governance-related.
“The report shows how agriculture can be central to climate action. It highlights that Agriculture is already impacted by climate change, showing that its adaptation is urgent to ensure food security and nutrition leaving no one behind,” Semedo said.
“Agriculture including crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, offers solutions that contribute to both adaptation and mitigation.”
The synthesis further highlighted how central water is to all sectors for their adaptation. In this context, FAO supports integrated water resources management to face water-related challenges in the context of climate change.
FAO said it is already working towards the report’s recommendations, including fostering climate resilience and adaptation in the agrifood sector.
The FAO Strategy on Climate Change looks beyond food production by considering crops and livestock, forests, fisheries and aquaculture and related value chains, livelihoods, biodiversity and ecosystems in a holistic manner, as well as embracing the indispensable role of women, youth and Indigenous Peoples, as essential agents of change.
It considers different contexts and realities, including rural, peri-urban and urban areas, and supporting countries, as appropriate, in designing, revising and implementing agrifood systems related parts of their country-driven commitments and plans, including nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national adaptation plans (NAPs), nationally appropriate mitigation actions, long-term low greenhouse gas emission development strategies, disaster risk reduction plans and other related targets and commitments.
Moreover, the Strategy considers different dimensions of risk, including the risk of non-acting, systemic risks, climate and environmental risk reduction, the specific needs and capacities of people and communities in vulnerable situations and integrating climate risk management in FAO’s areas of work.
FAO also works as a delivery partner for the Green Climate Fund (GFC), the world’s largest climate fund mandated to support developing countries to raise and achieve the ambition of their national climate plans.
Since becoming partners in 2016, FAO and the GCF have been scaling up climate investments in high-impact projects that make the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors more efficient, inclusive, sustainable and resilient to climate change. The portfolio now exceeds over 1 billion.