Consolidating the role of Agriculture on the road to COP28

Manuel Otero, Director General of the IICA (Photo via IICA)

Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)

Although it may be difficult to make a concise and conclusive assessment of the results of the recent Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP27, it is possible to pinpoint partial advances and to make projections for the future.

Globally, the most pressing concern is the slow progress of negotiations on how to gradually eliminate fossil fuels, which are considered the major obstacle to achieving the objective of limiting global warming to 1.5 percent above pre-industrial levels. The current geopolitical situation has contributed to this lack of progress and the failure to include any concept on renewable energy.

In contrast, headway was made in the area of financing, given the creation of a loss and damage fund to tackle the effects of climate change, particularly in the most vulnerable countries—a very important step for Latin America and the Caribbean—and a change in the prevailing position that maintained that the current climate financing structure could adequately address these problems.

The operational modalities of the fund are yet to be defined, including its size and the source of the funding—which will be determined in 2023—but the decisions mark a significant change and a response, albeit partial, to the increasingly frequent destructive climate events and their impact on the most vulnerable countries.

The final text of the declaration stressed the need for international institutions to play an integral role in the global climate change fight, a critical matter, given the magnitude of these institutions and their capacity to transform the global economy.

For the first time, the cover decision referred to the need for specific actions on oceans, forests and agriculture, while linking the latter to food security, as a fundamental priority to achieving the SDGs, particularly with respect to eliminating hunger.

Likewise, it was determined that a joint working group on the implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security must be established to ensure the continuation of previous activities related to agriculture, while adopting a holistic approach in terms of this sector’s relationship to food security and promoting the participation of the UN and other relevant bodies, academia, the private sector and civil society, including farmer organizations. The group will have to report to COP in 2026 and to the different bodies of the Convention on its deliberations and proposals.

This marks a significant step forward, as previous COP meetings had never made reference to agriculture nor food. Nonetheless, food systems—the key issue of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021—were still not included and there was no in-depth discussion on how agriculture could contribute to mitigation efforts, in particular its capacity to serve as a carbon sink.

From the perspective of the Americas, our region, major opportunities are opening up for agriculture to play a role in sustainable development strategies. The wealth of natural resources that are the basis of our agriculture sector and its importance in international markets make it a strategic component of the world’s food, nutritional and environmental security.

The challenge is to convey this vision at the negotiation table, incorporating empirical evidence on our highly efficient and sustainable agriculture sector, which far from being part of the problem, is clearly part of the solution. More importantly, we must consolidate the view in our countries that only sustainable and inclusive production strategies are permissible for the future.

We have made significant strides in this area, for example, with the preparation of a consensus message by the ministers of Agriculture of the Americas ahead of COP27, emphasizing the importance of agriculture as an instrument in climate change mitigation and adaptation, and its vital contribution to the economic and social improvement of our societies.

In this message, the region committed to improving the presence of ministers and secretaries of Agriculture and Livestock of the Americas in national, hemispheric and global climate discussions. This commitment began to materialize with the attendance of ministers and secretaries of the Americas at COP in Sharm-el Sheik and their participation in the activities undertaken at the Home of Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas pavilion, which the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) installed at the Summit, along with 40 public and private sector partners, under the slogan “Feeding the World, Nurturing the Planet”.

We must now transform this general consensus into a work plan with specific actions.

The roadmap seems clear: sustainable agriculture—based on science and innovation and led by farmers—must be part of the solution to the problems impeding human development.

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