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« Climate change and food security | Main | New Ag Secretary Faces Big Challenges »

December 16, 2008

So much to do, so little time

IATP's Anne Laure Constantin was at the global climate talks in Poznan, Poland last week.

Climatechange The Poznan conference adjourned last weekend, late in the night between Friday and Saturday. Expectations were not high before the conference started, and there were no surprises at the end. The outcome is modest, at best.

It was hoped that countries would be able to agree on the modalities of an "adaptation fund" aimed at supporting developing countries' needs to deal with the effects of climate change. However, despite some progress, they weren't able to reach closure on this subject. More importantly, lack of progress in this area prevented any serious discussion on targets for emission reductions, and the conference ended with a sense that the North/South divide was widening.

French NGO GRET has a nice and short summary of the week and a way forward here.

There was some news on the agriculture front in Poznan. While the sector had previously been relatively absent from the talks, some governments decided to bring it back to the forefront this time. First of all, the 100 page technical paper by the UNFCCC secretariat on "Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigation in the Agriculture Sector" is a comprehensive review of key issues.

New Zealand also made it clear that agriculture is one of its top priority in these talks. Developing countries, led by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), presented the "African biocarbon initiative," advocating "the expansion of eligible categories to benefit from carbon credits and other international incentives in the post-2012 treaty to include sustainable land management, including sustainable agriculture, sustainable forest management, afforestation and reforestation, reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, thereby enabling `greener agriculture' and promoting agricultural productivity in a way that improves resilience and adaptation to climate change." You can find the COMESA ministerial declaration here, or view the press conference featuring the secretary general of COMESA.

Also, farmers organizations participated, with IFAP even formally addressing the conference of parties. The Via Campesina delegation focused on raising awareness about the limitations of the current negotiations, and the possible perverse effects of market-based instruments such as REDD.

Despite all this activitiy (to which you would need to add much more, including efforts by the Rome agencies and non-governmental organizations), there is absolutely no consensus on how to move forward with agriculture in a carbon-constrained world. Farming communities around the world already have to grapple with adaptation, which is THE emergency. And experts are stressing that significant efforts to reduce emissions are key to preserving agriculture production potential over the next decades.

The specifics of how to promote resilient farm and food systems in the short-term needs to be worked out by governments. They will no doubt have to tap into various sources of expertise around the world. They need to make that decision and take action, quick!

Anne-Laure Constantin

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