Are we ready for 'Climate Smart Agriculture'?

01 october 2014
With demand for food set to increase 60 per cent by 2050, world leaders, major corporations and civil society met at the United Nations Climate Summit on 23 September 2014, and pledged commitments to transform agricultural practices by increasing productivity while reducing carbon emissions.
Here's the UN press release on the occasion, which was welcomed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, saying "I am glad to see action that will increase agricultural productivity, build resilience for farmers and reduce carbon emissions."
And here is the Statement for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition at the Climate Summit, presented on the day:
In today’s world there is enough food for all to be well-fed, yet one person in eight is still undernourished. Ensuring food security and good nutrition for the world’s population is one of our most pressing challenges. With the world’s population expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050 and climate change already impacting all aspects of food security, food systems need to be more sustainable and more productive. The progressive realisation of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security is more difficult in the face of climate change, and smallholder farmers, often women, and indigenous peoples are acutely vulnerable.
Given the significant relationship between food security and climate change, our task is to dramatically scale up efforts to make agriculture more resilient. We welcome the UN Climate Summit’s focus on agriculture and climate change as it offers a platform for catalysing substantial, scalable and replicable contributions.
We undertake to improve food security and nutrition by incorporating climate-smart approaches into agriculture of all types and all scales, in order to achieve the following three aspirational outcomes: (i) Sustainable and equitable increases in agricultural productivity and incomes; (ii) Greater resilience of food systems and farming livelihoods; and (iii) Reduction and/or removal of greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture (including the relationship between agriculture and ecosystems), wherever possible.
We acknowledge that context-specific priorities need to be determined by farmers, based on the social, economic and environmental conditions at each site, and according to the specific type and scale of agricultural We recognize the essential role of farmers, fishers, foresters and livestock keepers, and collectively aim to enhance the resilience of 500 million people in agriculture by 2030, through the implementation of climate smart agriculture approaches, as an essential component of attaining global food security.
We invite you to join us in these critical endeavours.
It seems, though, that not every one is excited by the invitation. A coalition of NGOs said “The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture will not deliver the solutions that we so urgently need. Instead, climate-smart agriculture provides a dangerous platform for corporations to implement the very activities we oppose.”
Earlier, former CEO of Concern Worldwide, Tom Arnold, had set the scene for a discussion in Ireland, with this article in the Irish Times.
In it, he says that "squaring this circle of increasing food production while reducing emissions will be very difficult," but that "this growing focus on Climate Smart Agriculture presents an opportunity for Ireland."
"What is needed ... is a coherent Irish policy on climate change, backed up with credible national commitments. ...  A certain percentage of the highly respected Irish development aid programme should focus on climate-smart agriculture." And "framing a coherent Irish position will require considerable discussion involving Government, scientists, interest groups and civil society."
In essence, what Tom Arnold proposes is that, six years after the "Hunger Task Force" report brought a new focus to Irish development cooperation (and which resulted in great Irish leadership on issues like agriculture and nutrition), Ireland should now take up a second issue for a global leadership role: climate smart agriculture.
Are we ready for the challenge?
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