Farmers rely on the weather and the environment in its entirety for their production and livelihoods. Changes in the frequency and severity of major weather events, such as droughts and floods, are posing significant challenges for farmers and threaten food security, especially in developing countries. In addition, agricultural activities, such as crop and livestock production, are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Globally agricultural emissions currently account for 12-14% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These are projected to increase by 20-30% by 2020, as estimates indicate we will need to increase food production by as much as 60-70% by 2050.
Despite the obvious relationships between agriculture and climate change, until recently agriculture had been missing from the decisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the most important international body that makes decisions on climate change. The main element that prevented any formal discussion on agriculture was the profound disagreement among developed countries and developing countries on the priorities of the potential common action in this sector. Developing countries consider that joint efforts should be made primarily to adapt agricultural practices to the already severe effects of climate change in their regions and to improve the conditions of the 800 million people who live in food-insecure circumstances. They consider the great part of their agricultural emissions as “survival emissions,” which are necessary to meet basic human needs, including food security. On the other hand, developed countries prioritize reducing agricultural emissions to keep the global warming below 2 Celsius degrees above pre-industrial levels, as was commonly agreed by the Paris treaty in 2015.
Recognizing the urgency of addressing this sector, all countries’ delegations overcame their political differences at last UNFCCC Bonn conference (30 April - 10 May) and made a significant advance on the “Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture,” the programme dedicated to discussing agriculture in the framework of the UNFCCC. During the conference, the country delegations adopted a roadmap for guiding the next two and a half years of collective work on agriculture. This roadmap provides an agenda of activities that include workshops, topic submissions, and workshop reports every six months between now and the end of 2020. The series of workshops will cover the following topics: a) implementation of the outcomes of the previous five workshops on agriculture-related issues, b) the assessment of adaptation measures, c) the improvement of soil condition, d) enhanced nutrient use and manure management, e) improved livestock management systems and f) socioeconomic and food security aspects of climate change.
Many observers now expect that future discussions will be able to implement concrete solutions for farmers on the grounds. Innovation will play a crucial role in finding solutions that conciliate the different perspectives. Some technologies and know-how, which were developed to adapt to climate change or for higher productivity, also show potential to reduce greenhouse gasses emissions. The next UNFCCC Conference of the Parties in Poland in December 2018 will be the first opportunity for developing and developed countries to give concrete responses to the world’s farming community of more than 1 billion people. As an old saying suggests, “Well begun is half done,” so farmers confidently wait.