SPECIAL COP21 – Water and agriculture issues pushed center stage at Paris summit

Food and water security, agricultural production and related financial support are critical topics between the lines of the ongoing climate negotiations in Paris.

Climate impacts affecting the hydrogeological cycle and food production are already being felt especially by small farmers and vulnerable communities in developing countries. Agriculture (together with other land-use activities) is estimated to produce around a quarter of global GHG emissions but is also a sector heavily affected by increasing extreme weather events, heat waves, droughts and shifts in seasonal patterns.

Water and food issues were raised  by both civil society attending the Paris summit and at the institutional level on Wednesday (Dec. 2). A coalition of nations, together with almost 290 water basin organisations, business and civil society announced the creation of the international Paris Pact on Water and Climate Change Adaptation under the Lima to Paris Action Agenda (LPAA).

The pact includes commitments to implement adaptation plans, strengthening water monitoring and measurement systems in river basins and promoting financial sustainability and new investment in water systems management.

According to official release, the combined projects represent over USD 20 million in technical assistance and potentially over USD 1 billion in financing, including a 10-year investment plan to strengthen resilience in the Niger basin and a 7-year framework supported by the EU Commission to assess the state and trends of water resources in Jordan, Lebanon, Monaco, Morocco, Spain and Tunisia.

Several members of the international water community, including the World Water Council and the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), launched the #ClimateIsWater initiative to leverage the importance of water in climate discussions.

“Currently water does not figure in the official agenda in an adequate way despite the fact that all impacts of climate variability and change are manifested through, by and with water” they said in the release. “We need to act to bring attention to this issue both now and in the future.”

Dec. 2 was also the “Farmers Day” on the COP21 agenda and a number of side events were dedicated to discuss problems and solutions to agricultural mitigation and adaptation needs, and what the ongoing negotiation can deliver to the sector.

Without investments to help people cope with climate impacts, the SDG goal of ending hunger by 2030 (one of 17 development goals adopted in September) would not be achievable, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin told Reuters.

The WFP is designing a new scheme called FoodSECuRE, Food Security Climate Resilience Facility, to help governments unlock funding to scale-up food and nutrition responses as well as disaster risk reduction activities before climate disasters occur. According to Reuters, the new fund requires USD 400 million and so far Norway has donated USD 2 million, which has been used to help farmers in Guatemala and Zimbabwe get prepared for the effects of the strong El Nino currently unfolding.

In the context of the Lima Paris Action Agenda, governments and food and agriculture organizations highlighted six major initiatives to provide farmers in developing and developed countries with financial resources and know-how needed to adapt and reduce agricoltural emissions.

“The time has come to to reshape agriculture”, the UN Secretary General’s special representative for food security and nutrition David Nabarro said in the official release. “But it must be of the right type: regenerative, smallholder centered, focused on food loss and waste, adaptation, soils management, oceans and livestock.”

The initiatives focus on some of the key agricultural issues. For instance, enhancing the stock carbon in the soil is the aim of the global “4/1000 Initiative”, while the need to reduce the carbon footprint of the livestock sector is addressed by the Europeen “Live Beef Carbon” initiative (aimed to reduce the beef carbon footprint by 15 percent over 10 years in France, Ireland, Italy and Spain). Food loss and waste reduction is the focus of the FAO-led partnership SAVE FOOD, and increasing resilience of smallholder farmers is pursued by the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).


(Image: meeting rooms at COP21, Le Bourget site, Paris, Dec. 1, 2015. Photo credit: UNclimatechange/Flickr)