For the first time in Conference of Parties (COP) history, agriculture was on the official agenda of the 27th COP at Sharm el-Sheikh. On 12 November, the COP hosted several sessions dedicated to “Adaptation and Agriculture”, where representatives and policymakers acknowledged that the agri-food sector is not only suffering from climate change but also contributing to it, and is also part of the solution. They recognised the need to increase the resilience of agriculture to ensure food security and prosperity of rural areas and populations, especially in the Global South. This blog provides an overview of the main outcomes of COP27 that are relevant to rural areas, in particular those regarding agriculture and food systems, notwithstanding the relevance of climate negotiations on other rural activities and land uses such as forests.
Funding agri-food sector adaptation
Discussions and pledges revolved around funding the adaptation for agriculture, by investing in innovations, and technologies, albeit with a strong focus on the Global South. Today, while the agri-food sector contributes to a third of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, it only benefits from 3% of public climate finance (Global Alliance for the Future of Food, 2022). The COP recognised the need to invest in the transition and launched several initiatives in this regard, such as the Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST), aiming at increasing the quantity and quality of climate finance for transforming agriculture and food systems by 2030. Another coalition of countries and organisations in the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) also pledged to allocate an additional $4 billion to the $4 billion already earmarked for research and development projects aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture. As it has been recognised that the Global South is more affected by climate change, these initiatives intend to be more focused on this region than on EU rural areas. However, due to the interconnectedness of the global agri-food system, the success of adaptation outside the EU can also have implications in the EU, for example on the availability of imports of animal feed and other commodities, reducing the pressure to produce for export, or by knowledge-transfer.
Supporting the adaptation of farmers and rural population
The call for funding adaptation of agriculture went beyond agricultural production but also concerned populations and areas related to it. Dina Saleh, the Regional Director of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), explained that failure to help rural populations adapt could have dangerous consequences, leading to longer poverty, migrations and conflict (UN, 2022). Farmers and rural populations are indeed at the frontlines of the crisis while barely contributing to climate change. As a response, COP27 recognised the scope, frequency and cost of loss and damage to the lives and livelihoods of local communities and agreed upon a “Loss and damage fund” to address the impacts of climate change on communities in the Global South. Finally, in addition to the significant damage to these populations, the COP also recognised that the changes needed for transition will first impact producers. Therefore, the parties, recognised the importance of just transition, including the socio-economic and workforce dimensions, and decided to establish a Just Transition work programme.
Nature -based solutions and reducing pollution
Nature was also highlighted as a solution. A coalition of state and non-state actors launched the ENACT initiative, which focuses on nature and ecosystem-based solutions for mitigation and adaptation, while ensuring appropriate social and environmental safeguards. Much of this would take place in rural areas such as restoring peatlands and protecting forests, which could therefore imply changes to land use and land management practices in those areas to store more carbon and boost biodiversity, ecosystems and possibly rural jobs at the same time. This can in turn enhance the resilience of rural ecosystems and the economic activities that rely on them to the increasing impacts of climate change, which are already being felt strongly in Europe.
Concerning reducing emissions (or ‘mitigation’), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) announced the publication of a roadmap for COP28 to reduce emissions from the sector. The roadmap will clearly be relevant for Europe, and the SHERPA project has been active on the topic of what net zero means for rural areas, and the importance of considering the need for just transition in strategies to reduce emissions (for example from the EU’s unsustainable livestock sector)(see e.g. SHERPA 2022 Position paper on Climate and Environmental Sustainability). At the time of publishing this blog post, the roadmap is not yet available.
The COP has now officially recognised the importance of changing and adapting the agri-food system to improve its resilience. They agreed on several initiatives to fund adaptation, especially in the Global South and for people the most affected by climate change. However, adaptation initiatives also need to be implemented in the EU rural areas as temperatures in Europe have increased more than twice the global average over the past 30 years (WMO, 2022). Also, even though agriculture was on the official agenda, most of the discussions and initiatives for sustainable agriculture and food were held and launched outside the official negotiations. Moreover, official talks were more focused on adaptation rather than reducing emissions and other impacts of our food and agricultural systems. More action on food systems is expected to come at the next COP, and there are hopes that the EU or certain member states will be champions of this agenda.
Global Alliance for the Future of Food (2022). Untapped opportunities: climate financing for food systems transformation. n.p. Global Alliance for the Future of Food
UN (2022) Adapt or starve: COP27 spotlights agriculture challenges and solutions in the face of climate change. UN News website.
World Meteorological Organization (2O22). Temperatures in Europe increase more than twice global average. World Meteorological Organization website.