Emerging attended the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), that took place in Katowice, Poland, December 1-14, 2018. I followed the negotiation process focused on the implementation details of the Paris Agreement with regards to agricultural issues. The negotiations at Katowice were crucial to help countries account for and record their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
At COP24, countries reached an agreement on many of these details and made a good step forward but a lot remains to be done. Scientists say that the current global commitment to reduce GHG emissions is not enough to prevent the severe and negative impacts of climate change. As the Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres said, the lack of action against climate change now would be suicidal. So future UNFCCC meetings need urgently to scale up developed countries’ efforts in mitigating their emissions and provide the necessary finance to developing countries to do the same.
The agricultural sector especially needs policy discussion to be translated into concrete action on the ground as climate change is predicted to significantly reduce agricultural production and increase food insecurity. At the same time, agriculture is also a cause of the problem as it is responsible for almost a quarter of the GHG emissions through deforestation and the management of livestock, soil and nutrients. For these reasons, many considered the recent decision to formally include agriculture in the UNFCCC negotiations as a landmark result.
However, since that decision, the process has been slow and mainly focused on procedures rather than on substantial climate action. Discussions take the form of thematic workshops covering key issues such as soil, nutrients and livestock rather than traditional negotiations. In Katowice the debate focused specifically on the role of the specialized bodies of the UNFCCC in assisting countries with the implementation of the outcomes of the workshops. Unsurprisingly, one of the main result of the discussion was that the UNFCCC action in the agricultural field is still limited. Overall the discussion confirmed the need to research a continuous delicate compromise between developing and developed countries on issues such as finance and the balance between mitigation and adaptation.
While the process is slow, and views sometimes diverging, all countries are aware that their joint work is essential to create the institutional, technical and financial structures needed to transform the agricultural sector and the overall food system to respond to the climate crisis. Countries are expected to boost the development of technological innovations in agriculture, improve their transfer to developing countries, identify knowledge gaps, stimulate the sharing of best practices, foster capacity development and facilitate the needed financial mechanisms.
The next UNFCCC negotiation sessions in Bonn in June 2019 will be an important step to understand if, when and how discussions will be translated into concrete actions for the benefit of 500 million small farmers and entire society.