FAO: Transform agrifood systems to adapt and mitigate climate change

Agriculture by StateofIsrael via Flickr CC

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization asserts that transforming agrifood systems is essential to adapt to human-caused climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. FAO underscored this in response to the March report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Synthesis Report, the last of the Sixth Assessment report cycle, confirms 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.

FAO says the report “underlines that 22% of global greenhouse gas emissions right now come from agriculture, forestry, and land use.” The synthesis report also paints a clear way ahead, noting 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,” she said.

Climate action through food and agriculture

IPCC scientists highlight 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, 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 notes 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 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”, FAO Deputy Director-General Semedo highlighted.

“Agriculture including crop and livestock production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, offers solutions that contribute to both adaptation and mitigation,” she added.

The synthesis further highlights 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. Looking ahead, the UN 2023 Water Conference is of particular importance for Agriculture.

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.

It’s time to implement the strategy and make 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, an effective reality.

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.