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Is agriculture being treated unfairly?

28 November 2012, The Zimbabwean

Bruce Campbell, Program Director at the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers (CGIAR) says the world mustn’t read a lot into the non-mentioning of agriculture during the official opening of the eighteenth session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties (COP 18) at the Qatar National Convention Centre in Doha, Qatar.
In response to what some delegates saw as the conference not taking a strong stance on agriculture, Campbell who heads CGIAR’s Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) research program said it is very seldom that agriculture is mentioned in the opening speeches.

“So I would not read a lot into that. For most of the negotiators, agriculture is not the priority topic. It is about getting legally binding agreements on emissions and ensuring that the climate finance is sufficient. Especially, developing countries (especially the Least Developed Countries) argue that they did not create the problem of climate change and yet they are burdened by the costs of adaptation. They expect wealthy countries that have caused GHG emissions to put up the finance,” he explains.

The Least Developed Countries include 33 countries in Africa, where climate change impacts are already being felt.

The outgoing COP17 President, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, in incumbent President, Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Attiyah and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres did not mention agriculture in the opening speeches.

In an opinion piece published in the media this month, Campbell said support for a work program on agriculture is urgently needed at Doha to incorporate the growing sector into international efforts to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change as well as address looming food security issues.

"Agriculture is still considered a sideshow in the climate arena and a decision has been lacking over several years of UN climate negotiations. Agriculture will be massively impacted by climate change, both the increase in extreme conditions and the rising temperatures. We need global action to ensure food security under climate change," Campbell said.

At COP 17 held in Durban, South Africa last year, the conference by its decision, requested the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to consider issues related to agriculture at its upcoming thirty-sixth session, with the aim of exchanging views and the COP adopting a decision on agriculture at its eighteenth session.

Due to the impact of climate change on agricultural production and food security, the sector’s high vulnerability for adverse effects of climate change as well as the level and share of emissions from this sector in the global emissions, agriculture is addressed in the context of the UNFCCC.

So far, the discussion on agriculture focused mainly on aspects related to mitigation, with many Parties calling for more in-depth consideration of the sector and for a comprehensive approach that addresses aspects of mitigation and adaptation in a balanced manner.

South Africa’s Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson, said in Durban, Parties agreed to consider matters related to agriculture as a stand-alone item under the SBSTA at its thirty-sixth session.

In an interview Figueres said agriculture is still part of the process and in Doha COP18 governments will further consider the crucial role of agriculture in the global effort to adapt to climate change and curb greenhouse gas emissions.

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