Working a Bit on Agriculture in Bonn

Working a Bit on Agriculture in Bonn

Opening SBI session at the conference

Should a “work program” on agriculture be launched by the scientific and technical body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)? Governments’ perspectives on agriculture were shared vocally during a morning session at the UN climate change talks in Bonn today (longer texts were submitted earlier this year; civil society organizations also had a chance to weigh in in writing). As with many meetings at the climate talks, this one started late and ran long. And as with many meetings here, too, a distinct difference emerged in the positions of Annex I (read industrialized) and non-Annex I countries (all the others). In the main, the Annex I submissions focused on the potential for mitigation (i.e. reducing greenhouse emissions) in the agricultural sector; some also referenced the “synergies” between mitigation and adaptation (adjustments to the realities of climate change, including erratic rainfall, drought, and warmer temperatures); a few confirmed their concern for ensuring food security as a priority.

Developing countries, speaking in regional blocs and a few individually, stressed the urgent need for adaptation in their agricultural sectors—and financing, technical support, and technology transfer to make this possible. Most also rejected any notion of achieving reductions in their agricultural emissions given domestic food needs and global warming’s negative impacts on agricultural productivity and reliability—already broadly evident. Interestingly, when the Annex countries speak of mitigation, their implicit (even if unstated) focus is developing countries. I didn’t hear any industrialized country (and among those speaking were the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and Japan) say or even allude to adopting a program to mitigate their own agricultural emissions, which, in most, are very large, including because they have large livestock populations and consistent, intensive production of meat, dairy products, and eggs.

Other NGOs here read between the lines: the Annex I countries want to “offset” their emissions (agricultural and non-) by supporting GHG mitigation through “carbon sequestration” in soils in the global South. Many Southern governments and NGOs are skeptical about who would benefit and who would pay . . . even more than they have for climate change already. The chairperson will reconvene the “contact group” (sorry, more UN-speak) on Friday morning. He’ll summarize and then the statements will begin again. Adaptation? Mitigation? Synergies? Commitments? Action? Inaction? All are still on the table here in Bonn. More views on the potential “work program” on agriculture soon.

Photo courtesy of UNclimatechange, Flickr