Not too late to get agriculture into 2015 climate deal - World Bank expert

by Megan Rowling | @meganrowling | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Sunday, 17 November 2013 14:37 GMT

A farmer lets his cattle graze at the fields of Lalitpur, Nepal, on November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Navesh Chitrakar

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The window for progress at Warsaw is closed, but other opportunities are ahead, Rachel Kyte says

WARSAW (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Agriculture can still be part of a new global deal on climate change, due to be agreed in 2015, even though almost no progress has been made on the issue at the U.N. climate talks in Poland, a top World Bank official said on Sunday.

Rachel Kyte, vice president for sustainable development at the World Bank, told a forum on managing forest and farm landscapes that the international community working to strengthen agriculture in poorer nations has "taken another blow" in Warsaw, after climate negotiators did little more than hold a workshop on how science can help farmers adapt to climate shifts.

India and other developing states refused to launch more substantial discussions, as they do not want to open the door to talks on how to reduce planet-warming emissions from farming, fearing it could limit their ability to boost food production. Agriculture contributes 14 to 24 percent of total global emissions, and is responsible for 80 to 86 percent of  emissions from the world's food systems.

"This is a particular setback for the continent of Africa," Kyte told the event on the sidelines of the climate talks. "These negotiations run the risk of turning their backs on some of the most vulnerable and poorest people in this world."

Researchers are increasingly promoting a "climate-smart" approach to farming that produces "triple wins" - meaning that yields, food security and incomes go up, farmers become more resilient to climate and weather stresses, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced at the same time.

Climate-smart measures include weather-based insurance for crops, providing social safety nets and access to credit, getting weather and climate information to farmers, encouraging them to cultivate trees on their land, and managing water and soils better - in some cases earning carbon credits too.

"I understand that some (climate) negotiators do not believe there is a triple win," Kyte said. Researchers and practitioners have a duty to explain it to them, and present data and evidence to back up their arguments, she added.

She said it was time to turn the page and focus on getting agriculture onto the agenda the next time the technical body that deals with it in U.N. climate negotiations meets in June. The talks in Warsaw run through Friday, but the body that deals with agriculture, among other issues, concluded its business on Saturday.

"It's never too late," Kyte told journalists, when asked if there was still time to get agriculture included in a 2015 global climate deal, on which negotiations are starting to pick up pace.

The potential for good management of agricultural landscapes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "is not yet confidently grasped by enough negotiators", Kyte said. "How can we take that more compellingly to negotiators in the ministries which own this (U.N.) process, because we haven't really managed to make that breakthrough?"

International agencies and research bodies that work on agriculture have "a two-year opportunity" to try to make a breakthrough, she added.

"In the meantime, everyone who is working really, really hard out there in the research stations, on the farms, in the projects around the world, needs to be supported to keep on doing what they are doing - because they are the data and the evidence," she said.

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