After five years of mostly unproductive talks, agriculture negotiators had a breakthrough moment at this year’s United Nations climate change conference (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany, agreeing on a package of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to climate impacts.
The announcement sent a jolt of optimism through the conference, once working group members were done with the mandatory (and well-deserved) round of hugs and selfies. The draft was forwarded to the formal COP plenary for final agreement.
“One of the things that made the agreed text agreeable to developed countries was that it does address mitigation in agriculture, as well as adaptation,” explained Shaughn McArthur of CARE Canada. “It’s thrilling that we’re finally there, after many years of trying to reach an acceptable decision for both sides.”
Countries “now have a draft decision text for the COP that will allow the scientific work that has already been done to be taken up for implementation, while continuing the important research on how climate change and agriculture interact,” he added.
Civil society observers are pleased that the implementation work “includes critical issues like food security, which as we’ve seen in the last year is an ongoing, severe problem,” with 20 million people at risk of famine in Africa and Yemen, McArthur noted.
“It’s difficult to make those direct links. But where we see drought, where we see climate-related impacts on smallholder agriculture, which provides food and livelihoods for the vast majority of the world’s very poor people, there’s a clear overlay with the areas where we see increased conflict and humanitarian need. That’s why we need a holistic vision of how climate affects a range of global policy challenges.”
While the November 13 decision was a clearcut victory, nothing in the COP process is simple or straightforward. “One nuance I understand a little bit better now is that, although they’ve agreed to work together, they haven’t agreed to a work program,” McArthur said. “It’s the difference between just saying, ‘go work on this’, rather than forming a committee to get it done.”
This story first appeared in CAN-Raction, Climate Action Network-Canada’s daily newsletter at COP 23 in Bonn.