2016 Needs a Game-changer

By Emily Alpert

The climate deal reached in Paris last month was controversial, to say the least. You can read about 8 perspectives that claim the agreement is everything from ‘our best chance to save the planet,’ to a complete fraud.

Some of the positive aspects include a commitment to keep global temperature rise ‘well below’ 2°C above pre-industrial levels with an aim to limit rises to 1.5°C, a promise to spend $100 billion per year by 2020 on adaptation in developing countries, a signal to phasing-out fossil fuels and a renewed sense of faith in multilateralism. Yet, by many accounts, the text is just rhetoric. There is so much grey matter, so few terms or concepts adequately defined, and too little that is legally binding that the success of the agreement can only be proved by voluntary action. George Monbiot from The Guardian wrote “By comparison to what it could have been, it’s a miracle. By comparison to what it should have been, it’s a disaster.”

The agreement falls short on agriculture…

Akanyaru Watershed Protection Project Rwanda, photo credit: Green Fund Rwanda

Take for example the treatment of agriculture and food security in the text. The preamble directly refers to “safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.”  Food is also mentioned a second time in Article 2.1 of the agreement where parties agree to “strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change, in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty, including by: increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production.” But, this is where it stops. [Read more…]

8 perspectives on the Paris climate deal

logo-cop21-hpLauded as both an unmitigated success and no more than worthless words, the world’s first comprehensive climate change agreement has divided opinion. Between 30th November and 11th December, 196 countries came together in Paris to agree the global action needed to curb rising temperatures. But thoughts on the agreement are not as black and white as they seem. Even when applauded there is acknowledgement that it is not perfect and even when criticised there is some hope that this is the start of something bigger, a united global front in addressing climate change. In this sense the Paris Climate Accord is thought of as: [Read more…]

How climate-smart soil management increases resilience and helps mitigate climate change

Originally posted on: 4th December 2015, Grantham Institute 

As we mark World Soil Day, and with COP21 well into its first week, Dr Katrin Glatzel of Agriculture for Impact takes a look at how good soil and land management practices can help us achieve important climate and development goals.  

Soil matters. The decision made at the Rio+20 conference to develop a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the agreement ‘to strive to achieve a land degradation neutral world in the context of sustainable development’ gave momentum to discussions on the role of soils in the global sustainable development agenda. This is now, at least partially, reflected and anchored in SDG goal #15, ‘Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss.’

In addition to this, earlier this year the French Government launched its “4 per 1000” initiative, aimed at making agriculture a solution in addressing climate change while also advancing food and nutrition security. Agronomic techniques, including for example Sustainable Intensification practices, can sequester carbon from the atmosphere – at an average rate of four-thousandths of the existing carbon stock in the soil.

soil humusThe quality and amount of soils’ humus (decayed organic matter) and its soil organic carbon (SOC) are a key determinant of soil quality and crop productivity. When the concentration of SOC falls below a certain threshold, key soil properties are adversely affected inhibiting plant growth. Increasing the amount of humus and SOC in the soil requires adding nitrogen (N) and other plant nutrients, such as phosphate (P) and sulphur (S) in order for the transformation of biomass carbon into SOC to occur.

Conventional means of soil management often cause more harm than good, while organic approaches are sometimes too demanding of labour, reliant on scarce or unavailable inputs and insufficient to produce the yields required to move people out of poverty and achieve food security. Part of the solution is to combine the best of organic and conventional approaches in a way that is environmentally appropriate and sustainable. This includes bringing nutrients to the soil in from the outside to improve the SOC, either through livestock manure, the prudent use of inputs, such as the microdosing of fertilisers, or cultivation of legumes. [Read more…]

Climate Change, Nutrition and Food Security: How to keep the ship afloat – CFS 2015

By Alice Marks and Katrin Glatzel

Credit: FAO, G. Carotenuto

Credit: FAO, G. Carotenuto

Last week, delegates from over 100 countries, civil society organizations and the private sector convened in Rome for the 42nd meeting of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). In light of the 2015 development agenda dominated by the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the international climate negotiations taking place in early December, this year’s CFS focused on the cross-cutting theme of food and nutrition security. In her keynote address, Mary Robinson used the sinking of the Titanic as a metaphor for the oncoming food crisis; when the ship sinks it will not only be those in steerage who drown. What she meant was that we should all show interest in nutrition and food security, because it will affect rich countries as much as it will affect poorer, developing ones. Over- and under-nutrition currently affects 1 in 4 people in Africa, a worrying statistic that has repercussions far beyond the shores of the continent.

Credit: FAO G. Napolitano

Credit: FAO G. Napolitano

A side event that we hosted in cooperation with the Global Panel, The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and John Kufuor Foundation looked specifically at Climate Change, Food Security and Nutrition. Tom Arnold, a member of both the Global Panel and the Montpellier Panel, expanded upon Mary Robinson’s warning using the example of the food price crisis of 2007/8. The crisis demonstrated that as people are no longer able to afford to buy food for themselves and their families – be it due to rising prices or lower incomes – they not only go to bed hungry, but the food they do eat is of a lower quality with less nutritional value. This is a big challenge and particularly problematic for pregnant women and young children. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

African smallholder farmers responding to an uncertain climate future

By Katrin Glatzel and Alice Marks

Originally posted on Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute Blog

Farmers in Tanzania. Credit :Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Farmers in Tanzania. Credit :Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

With just a couple of months left till the world’s leaders gather in Paris to agree on a new international climate change agreement, the Montpellier Panel launched a report last week addressing some of the key challenges we face in helping smallholder farmers become more resilient in the face of climate change.“The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future” also argues that smallholders can be the drivers for steering Africa towards low-carbon development pathways – provided they are given the right support and incentives to do so.

As we all know, two of the greatest challenges of the 21st century are the increasing demands for food, water and energy from a growing population – and climate change. Agriculture and smallholder farmers are central to both, perhaps nowhere more so than in Africa. And while Africa is already battling against the impacts of climate change, smallholders and their families are amongst the most vulnerable with the least capacity to adapt. Rising temperatures signal more extreme weather events that will put the lives and livelihoods of millions of farmers at greater risk, increasing their vulnerability to drought, famine and disease. Whilst progress has been made during the last two decades to reduce hunger and to improve farmers’ livelihoods, climate change jeopardises these gains.

High levels of poverty and underdevelopment, combined with insufficient infrastructure, exacerbate the already severe impacts of global warming on resources, development and human security. In order to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, international organisations and governments must provide smallholders with the right support and with the incentives to reduce and offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Whilst agriculture is commonly seen as part of the problem, it is an even larger part to the solution. [Read more…]

10 priorities for making African smallholder farming work under climate change

By Katrin Glatzel

With just over two months left till a new international climate change agreement is being finalised in Paris, the Montpellier Panel is launching a new report today, “The Farms of Change: African Smallholders Responding to an Uncertain Climate Future”, which addresses some of the key challenges to climate-proof Africa’s smallholder farmers.

FoC cover pageAs we all know, two of the greatest challenges of the 21st century are the increasing demands for food, water and energy from a growing population and – climate change. Agriculture and smallholders are central to both, perhaps nowhere more so than in Africa. Africa is already battling against the impacts of climate change and smallholder farmers are amongst the most vulnerable with the least capacity to adapt. Rising temperatures signal more extreme weather events that will put lives and livelihoods at greater risk, increasing smallholders’ vulnerability to drought, famine and disease. And whilst progress has been made during the last two decades to reduce hunger and to improve farmers’ livelihoods, climate change jeopardises these gains.

High levels of poverty and underdevelopment combined with insufficient infrastructure exacerbate the already severe impacts of global warming on resources, development and human security. In order to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, international organisations and governments must help smallholders to reduce and off-set greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. [Read more…]