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Wendy Mann is Senior Advisor on Natural Resource Management and the Environment at the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the coordinator of FAO delegations to the UNFCCC climate change negotiations.
Mann: I think it has evolved quite a bit since I started following the negotiations in August last year in Accra. In April, we had an in-session workshop on agriculture in which 15 developing countries took the floor (as well as a number of developed countries, including the EU and US), and almost all of the interventions were quite positive.
But I think that it was at the last session in Bonn (1-12 June) that we saw some real breakthroughs. We saw, for example, agriculture being mentioned a lot more in submissions made by parties, and of course it was reflected in the draft negotiating text. Moreover, there is an informal group of parties that is discussing agriculture on the sidelines of the negotiation, and FAO will be invited to join those discussions. There have also been some who wish to see REDD [reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation] expanded to include agriculture. So, all in all, I think we have seen progress, although the time to really fully develop the position of agriculture within the negotiations is short.
I think that there are a number of perceptions, I would say, rather than full-fledged challenges. One is the complexity of agriculture – which covers a myriad of different farming systems and ecosystems and millions of farmers. There are also doubts on the accuracy of measurement reporting and verification of emission reductions.
On the other hand, there has been progress in these areas. We have learned from rural development and agriculture development interventions how to aggregate better at community levels. There are also different upscaling approaches, such as a sector or programmatic approaches.
In terms of measurement, reporting and verification, we are learning a lot from the experiences of REDD, as well as how measurement can be done through default values for certain agricultural practices.
So you wouldn’t have to actually measure every single scrap of land but rather use proxy measurements. This would be easier and of course more cost-effective. Conservative approaches could compensate for less exact measurement.
Delivery will of course depend on the approach taken and the incentives given to farmers. A key challenge is having farmers adopt the mitigation practices that are required. And designing incentives for farmers is not easy because it is not purely about lost opportunity costs. Farmer decisions can also be related to risk (risk aversion), or savings – as some people’s livestock are their savings. Livestock can also be used as the bride price, so there are also social aspects.
So getting the incentives right and realising that developing countries are not at a uniform level of development, and will require different types of interventions and a more phased approach, are issues that I think are crucial to success.
I think the quantification of emissions through measuring, reporting and verification – particularly the more robust type of measurement of emissions that is needed for compliance markets - would be extremely challenging for agriculture and forestry in some countries, which may require capacity building, technology assistance and financing, and incentives to be able to do this.
Then there are also challenges related utilisation of incentives from market mechanisms and those related to land tenure systems. And this would come out in terms of how to credit emission reductions. Who would the credits go to and how would payments be made? In this context, land tenure becomes an extremely important issue.
Institution building is another issue and of course, if we really want to do things right, we need better policy coherence across agriculture and environment ministries.
Well at the recent Commission on Sustainable Development (which was on agriculture), FAO and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research were identified as two organisations that have the expertise to assist countries in making agriculture and the climate agenda more synergistic.
I think donors will have to work on two tracks. First, post-Copenhagen, at the international level, there will still be work to do to ensure that agriculture is in the Work Programme of the UNFCCC process. And that includes work in the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice, where methodological issues can be addressed.
Also at the international level, nothing will happen unless financing mechanisms are geared to support mitigation and adaptation from agriculture. And certainly the mechanisms need to value the synergistic options that can contribute both to mitigation and adaptation. In terms of market mechanisms, we have talked about having premium credits in order to give priority to those options that generate multiple benefits.
At country level, we need to field-test methodological approaches. And therefore a programme of pilot or demonstration projects is needed to test methodologies, a phased approach, different incentive and payment schemes and synergistic use of multiple funding streams.
I think, to be very frank, if you look at the financial resources now available, these are extremely limited because of the financial crisis and decades of under-investment in agriculture. Overall Official Development Assistance is shrinking, foreign direct investment is declining, and there has been no progress on agriculture in the Doha Round of trade negotiations.
So climate change is one of the few new and additional resources for sustainable agricultural development, given that it delivers multiple benefits for: climate change mitigation and adaptation, development and certain environmental services. It can thus contribute to multiple global and national goals. Failure to support sustainable agriculture as part of the solution to climate change could thus also have negative impacts on food security, poverty reduction and the resilience of agricultural systems.
Small farmers do not currently have access to climate-change financial mechanisms, because the main mitigation measure (soil carbon sequestration) is excluded from the Clean Development Mechanism.
There could also be adverse impacts on efforts to reduce deforestation, because of expansion of agriculture into forests. Different types of land uses are often connected. So we are advocating a more comprehensive approach to land use so that trade-offs and synergies across different land uses can be managed more effectively.
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