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COP21 Solved a Dilemma Which Delayed a Global Agreement

ROME, Dec 21 2015 (IPS) - One of the most significant aspects of the international conference on climate change, concluded in Paris on December 12, is that food security and ending hunger feature in the global agenda of the climate change debate.

The text of the final agreement adopted by the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognizes “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger and the special vulnerability of food systems production to the impacts of climate change.”

Indeed, of the 186 countries that presented voluntary plans to reduce emissions, around a hundred include measures related to land use and agriculture.

The approved programme of measures constitutes a sector-by-sector program to be implemented by 2020, which implies there will be ongoing focus on agricultural issues and not just about energy, mitigation or transportation, which drew so much of the attention in Paris.

In the next years the commitments must be implemented, which will require helping developing countries make necessary adaptations through technology transfer and capacity building.

The Green Climate Fund, comprising 100,000 million per year provided by the industrialized countries, will be a key contributor to this process. Contributions of additional resources to the Fund for the Least Developed Countries and the Adaptation Fund, among others, have also been announced.

The issue of future food production, long saddled with a low profile in the media, is increasingly a major concern and poses a challenge to governments.

A recent World Bank report estimated that 100 million people could fall into poverty in the next 15 years due to climate change. Agricultural productivity will suffer, in turn causing higher food prices.

According to Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), “climate change affects especially countries that have not contributed to causing the problem” and “particularly harms developing countries and the poorer classes.”

The facts speak for themselves. The world’s 50 poorest countries combined, are responsible for only one per cent of global greenhouse emissions, yet these nations are the ones most affected by climate change.

Approximately 75 per cent of poor people suffering from food insecurity depend on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods. Under current projections, it will be necessary to increase food production by 60 per cent to feed the world’s population in 2050.

Yet crop yields will, if current trends continue, fall by 10 to 20 per cent in the same period, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and higher ocean temperatures will slash fishing yields by 40 per cent.

One of the least-mentioned problems associated with climate change are the effects of droughts and floods, which have become a near constant reality. On top of the destruction of resources and huge losses brought by these phenomena, they also cause increases in food prices which in turn affects mainly the poor and most vulnerable.

Rising food prices have a direct relation to “climate migrants”, as the drop in production and income is one of the factors that triggers displacement from rural areas to cities, as well as from the poorest countries to those where there are potentially more opportunities to work and have a dignified life.

For example, migration in Syria and Somalia are not driven by political conflicts or security issues alone, but also by drought and the consequent food shortages.

This is why FAO argues that we must simultaneously solve climate change and the great challenges of development and hunger. These two scenarios go hand-in-hand. The dilemma is to make sure that measures adopted to address the former do not generate a constraint on the latter. Production capacity, particularly of developing countries, must not be jeopardized.

This is why developing countries argue that, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, they need technologies and support that they cannot fund with their own resources without hobbling their own development plans.

And since the most responsible for greenhouse gas emissions are the industrialized nations, the countries of the South insist, and have done so long before the COP21, that richer nations contribute to funding the changes needed to preserve the environment.

It was therefore natural that this dilemma was at the center of discussions in Paris and that efforts were made to find an agreement.

The creation of the Green Climate Fund was one of the keystones for an agreement that practically binds the whole world to the goal of keeping average temperatures at the end of the century from rising more than two degrees Celsius. The agreement will enter into force in 2020 and will be reviewed every five years. In that period, many problems will arise and need to be resolved.

Yet beyond the difficulties we will face on the way, it now seems legitimate to expect that the big problem will be addressed and the future of the planet will be preserved.


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