Why an ambitious climate deal is key to achieving zero hunger

By Katrin Glatzel

As climate negotiators and delegates from nearly 200 countries gather in the beautiful city of Bonn for a last time before the international climate negotiations take place in Paris in early December, much is at stake. Not only do we hope to reach an agreement that will put our world on course to limit global warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, we also need to reach an agreement that makes the poorest of the poor more resilient to weather extremes in the coming years.  This is a tall order. And as if it wasn’t already enough, we also need to overcome poverty and hunger. “Good news” is that these two challenges go hand in hand.

©UNICEF Ethiopia

©UNICEF Ethiopia

The two biggest challenges we are confronted with this century is managing climate change and ending poverty and hunger. As Lord Stern recently put it: if we fail at one, we will fail on the other. We cannot achieve a world of zero hunger if we do not tackle climate change. Climate-related disasters, such as floods and droughts, increase food insecurity and malnutrition, when agricultural land is affected and essential food supplies are no longer available.

We have already seen the devastating impacts of extreme climatic events on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable in our societies. Just now, Ethiopia is battling with the consequences of one of the worst droughts in recent times. Weather shocks and stresses disproportionally impact the most vulnerable people, putting the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people at greater risk. Studies show that by 2050, climate change could increase the risk of hunger and child malnutrition by up to 20%. We have a responsibility towards exactly these most vulnerable groups – smallholder farmers, women, and children in developing countries and in regions affected by war and civil unrest – to achieve a climate deal that signals global commitment to limit climate change and thereby help end hunger.

©EC ECHO 2014

©EC ECHO 2014

2015 is an important year on the international development agenda. Just a few weeks ago, the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in New York. In a few weeks from now a new international binding climate agreement will be signed at COP21. SDG goal #2 End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture will only be possible if COP21 is a success. Let’s ensure that 2015 goes down in history as the year that paved the way to ending hunger and as the year in which the world agreed to press the emergency brake on climate change.

Of course, there is much to be said about what a successful – and with that I mean an equitable, just and ambitious – international climate agreement would encompass. Part of the answer lies in providing the needed financial and technical support that will help developing countries make their economies, which are largely driven by agriculture, more climate-resilient. The Montpellier Panel recently published a report recommending, for example, that finance mechanisms ought to be improved or designed in such ways that African governments can better access funding that significantly benefits smallholder farmers. Although climate funds have begun to help developing countries confront the implications of climate change for development, some of the larger multilateral funds, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF), need to be adequately resourced. The GCF is now the largest and fastest-growing climate fund as more than 30 governments have pledged around US$10 billion. As the GCF funds its first projects, it must build and improve on the achievements and experiences of existing funds. It will need to find innovative ways to support national stakeholders and priorities, take a gender-sensitive approach, and improve engagement with the private sector.

It is our responsibility that the most vulnerable, and in particular women, young people and smallholder farmers, have the opportunity to thrive under climate change and not just cope. If we are able to achieve this, then it will be precisely these people who will be agents of change for their communities, countries and our world as a whole. They will be able to steer their countries towards prosperity and make the goal of achieving zero hunger achievable.

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