FAO: Climate change means urgent action needed to overcome malnutrition

25 October 2016

Urgent action is needed to ensure that climate threats do not undermine the food security goals within the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a landmark report launched on Monday.

“There is no doubt that climate change impacts food security,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at a press conference in Rome.

Declining agricultural yields, more frequent and intense droughts and floods, and problems associated with pests and diseases are among the risks identified in the agency’s flagship annual report, the “State of Food and Agriculture 2016.”

The report underscores that “business as usual” is not an option if governments are serious about ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030 – targets that are enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals that were adopted last year. (See Bridges Weekly, 1 October 2015)

“It is essential that national commitments – the country pledges that form the basis of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change – turn into action,” da Silva writes in a foreword to the study, referring to the global UN accord adopted last December in the French capital.

The Paris Agreement is due to enter into force next month. (See Bridges Weekly, 6 October 2016)
 

Adaptation and mitigation

The FAO chief said that “mitigation” efforts aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions had to go hand in hand with “adaptation” to the changing natural environment.

“The way we do one affects the other,” he said.

The report says that doing so will require “a profound transformation” of food and agriculture systems worldwide. In particular, governments will need to do more to help poor farmers to increase their productivity in environmentally sustainable ways.

“A lot of the technologies we need exist,” said Kostas Stamoulis, FAO Assistant Director-General, at the press conference this Monday. Indeed, da Silva underscored the potential of methods such as improved soil management techniques which can help improve yields while reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the same time.
 

Report: “Remove harmful subsidies”

The report also urges governments to better integrate their policies on climate, agriculture, food, and nutrition.

“This is a complex task and win-win solutions may not always be possible,” the authors note.

The study states that developed and major developing countries spent more than US$560 billion on agricultural support in 2015, including subsidies on inputs and direct payments to farmers. The authors add that some measures, such as input subsidies, may induce inefficient use of agro-chemicals and increase the emissions intensity of farm production.

Removing harmful subsidies is a “key policy issue” that needs to be addressed, Stamoulis said on Monday.

Governments could ensure agricultural development and climate goals are better aligned by making farm support payments conditional on adopting lower emission agricultural practices, the report says.

ICTSD reporting. This article first appeared in Bridges Weekly, 20 October 2016.

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