A Chorus of High-Level Support for Agriculture

[cross-posted from the CGIAR Climate Change Blog]
December 10, 2009

The significance of a side event held today at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change lay not just in what the high-level panelists said but in the fact that they had come together to deliver a single, coherent message about the vital relationship between food security and climate change. The meeting was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with several partners.

Speaking to a packed meeting room, Eva Kjer Hansen, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, opened the session with a brief explanation of why it is “crucial for agriculture to be on the climate agenda.” She also suggested specific measures by which the climate change challenge can be turned into an opportunity.

Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture, reinforced that message, calling for a “new rural economy,” built on technologies that boost crop production and permit more efficient use of renewable energy sources as well as sequestration of significant amounts of soil carbon. In addition, he reiterated the Obama administration’s strong commitment to reaching a new climate agreement and to achieving global food security, with emphasis not on food aid but on enhancing agricultural production in developing countries.

Gilberto Câmara of Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research cited evidence of the alarming impacts that climate change is expected to have on Brazilian agriculture, including those on vital coffee and soybean crops as well as on fragile environments, like the Amazon and the country’s dry Northeast. Against that background, Câmara outlined Brazil’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions significantly, boost the use of renewable energy and drastically reduce deforestation in the Amazon.

Warning that climate change could worsen conflicts over natural resources in agriculture, Ajay Vashee, president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) shared a vision of how food security, poverty reduction and climate change adaptation and mitigation could be productively linked in agriculture, assuming that new technology and adequate financing are widely available.

FAO director general Jacques Diouf rounded out the presentations, calling for support to developing countries as they seek to clarify their difficult choices in the face of climate change and the consequences.