Agriculture and Climate Change

Agriculture and climate change: An agenda for negotiation in Copenhagen

Gerald C. Nelson
2020 vision focus

Agriculture and climate change are inextricably linked.

Agriculture is part of the climate change problem, contributing about 13.5 percent of annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (with forestry contributing an additional 19 percent), compared with 13.1 percent from transportation. Agriculture is, however, also part of the solution, offering promising opportunities for mitigating GHG emissions through carbon sequestration, soil and land use management, and biomass production.

Climate change threatens agricultural production through higher and more variable temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and increased occurrences of extreme events such as droughts and floods. And if agriculture is not included, or not well included, in the international climate change negotiations leading up to the 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December 2009, resulting climate change policies could threaten poor farming communities and smallholders in many developing countries. The policies could also impede the ability of smallholders to partake in new economic opportunities that might arise from the negotiations.

Therefore, agriculture must be on the Copenhagen agenda. Indeed, it must be on the agenda of negotiators well before COP15. Essentially, three avenues must be pursued:

  1. Investments. There must be explicit inclusion of agriculture-related investments, especially as part of a Global Climate Change Fund.
  2. Incentives. There must be a deliberate focus on introducing incentives to reduce emissions and support technological change.
  3. Information. There must be a solid commitment to establishing comprehensive information and monitoring services in soil and land use management for verification purposes.

For more comprehensive perspectives on these issues, IFPRI’s 2020 Vision Initiative approached leading experts around the world to share their views on the key negotiating outcomes that must be pursued now in order to effectively put agriculture on the climate change agenda. We are grateful to Gerald Nelson for conceptualizing and editing this collection of policy briefs, to the contributors for their analysis and insights, and to the reviewers for their constructive comments. We hope that the findings and suggested negotiating outcomes presented here will contribute to a decisive and meaningful inclusion of agriculture in the international climate change negotiations leading up to Copenhagen in December 2009.

Joachim von Braun, (former) Director General
Rajul Pandya-Lorch, Head, 2020 Vision Initiative

Overview by Gerald C. Nelson;
Agricultural Science and Technology Needs for Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation by Rudy Rabbinge;
Reducing Methane Emissions from Irrigated Rice by Reiner Wassmann, Yasukazu Hosen, and Kay Sumfleth;
Direct and Indirect Mitigation Through Tree and Soil Management by Brent M. Swallow and Meine van Noordwijk;
The Potential for Soil Carbon Sequestration by Rattan Lal;
Mitigating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Livestock Systems by M. Herrero and P. K. Thornton;
The Role of Nutrient Management in Mitigation by Helen C. Flynn;
Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification Methodologies for Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use by Sean Smukler and Cheryl Palm;
Synergies Among Mitigation, Adaptation, and Sustainable Development by Pete Smith;
The Importance of Property Rights in Climate Change Mitigation by Helen Markelova and Ruth Meinzen-Dick;
The Important Role of Extension Systems by Kristin E. Davis;
Adaptation to Climate Change: Household Impacts and Institutional Responses by Futoshi Yamauchi and Agnes Quisumbing;
The Constructive Role of International Trade by Franz Fischler