Agriculture must become more productive, more resilient and more climate friendly, says World Bank Climate Change Envoy

October 31, 2010

The Hague, 31 October, 2010 –  Faced with growing worldwide problems of food security and climate change, agriculture must become more productive, more resilient and more climate friendly, said World Bank Special Envoy for Climate Change, Andrew Steer.

Speaking today at the opening of the International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change in The Hague, Steer called on the international community to grasp the opportunities to link agriculture with the transition to lower carbon-emitting, climate resilient growth.  “Let’s turn the promise of the "triple-win" into reality,”  he said.

There is a growing recognition that agriculture in developing countries must become “climate smart” in order to cope with the combined challenges of feeding a warmer, more heavily populated world. Climate change is expected to reduce agriculture productivity, stability and incomes in many areas that already experience high levels of food security.

Steer said, “At this conference we will be searching for the elusive triple win: policies and programs that will, first, increase farm productivity and incomes; second, make agriculture more resilient to variations in climate, and thus promote stability and security; and, third, help make the agriculture sector part of the solution to the climate change problem rather than part of the problem,”

“Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work to show how agricultural systems can be at the same time more productive, more resilient, and with a lower carbon footprint. We really do have the possibility of that triple win.”

Agriculture, forestry and land use change account for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions; there is great mitigation potential from better agriculture, soil, water and livestock management practices as well as reduced deforestation.

The International Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change is organized by the Government of the Netherlands.  Ending 5 November, the conference aims to develop a roadmap with concrete actions linking agriculture-related investments, policies, and measures with the transition to climate smart growth. It is one of the first events to tackle these challenges together and the outcome will also feed into discussions at the upcoming United Nations climate change conference in Cancun, Mexico in December.

Touching on the UN climate change negotiations, Steer said agriculture does not yet feature strongly in the climate change agenda partly because ministries of agriculture do not generally participate in the formal United Nations discussions. Also, climate change negotiators are typically not familiar with agriculture issues.

‘We need to change this,” Steer said. “Agriculture also needs to tap into funds available for climate change.” Steer said.

He called on the 60 ministers of agriculture attending the Hague conference to grasp this unique opportunity and send a strong message to the upcoming Cancun climate meeting.

Nobody expects a global deal at Cancun, but there will surely be one before too long. Associated with this will be financing for both adaptation and mitigation. It’s vital that agriculture is understood to have a key role to play and that the needs and interests of the farming and food communities in developing countries are reflected,” Steer said.

He continued, “There has been a sad history of under-investment in agriculture over the past decades which must be reversed. Things have changed for the better recently, but still not enough. African countries have committed to increasing spending on agriculture to 10% of their national budgets, and progress towards that goal has begun. And international supporters are doing more. World Bank Group financing for agriculture, for example, has increased by 60% over the past six years, and doubled in Africa. A strong IDA 16 replenishment will be essential to help maintain the momentum of the renewed focus on agriculture.”

The International Development Association (or IDA) is the World Bank’s fund for the poorest.

The World Bank Group currently supports climate change activities in 130 countries, many of which also include agriculture.

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