Rachel Kyte, Vice President for sustainable development at the World Bank and Minister Marcin Korolec, Polish Minister for the Environment and President of the UNFCCC COP19, Poland

World Bank official says COP negotiations ‘not good enough’

18 November, 2013, NSJ

It’s time to ‘roll up our sleeves’ to get agriculture into 2015 climate deals

By ALISON BINNEY and Thomson Reuters Foundation

WARSAW, Poland — Rachel Kyte told a forum on managing forest and farm landscapes in Warsaw today [Sunday] that current UN climate negotiations are ‘not good enough’.

“The future of forests, food security and climate are so closely bound that it is vital we develop a shared agenda,” said Kyte, World Bank Vice President for Sustainable Development, at the opening session of the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF).

“If we continue to fund crop expansion on one hand and forest protection on the other, we simply waste taxpayer money and precious time.”

Delegates to the ongoing UN climate conference in Poland have expressed dismay that agriculture and forestry have been largely left out of the current negotiations.

More than 1000 forest, agriculture and climate experts at the GLF — a side event to the climate talks — have made their most vocal plea yet for negotiations to consider forests, agriculture and humans as part of a holistic “landscapes approach” for future climate deals.

The question of how to produce enough food to support a projected world population of 9 billion by 2050 — without destroying the world’s forests and the staggering biodiversity and ecosystem services that they support — has taken on a sense of urgency in light of the increasingly palpable effects of climate change.

Kyte said: “Over the next 50 years, climate change could reduce food crop yields by 16 percent worldwide and up to 28 percent in Africa. Increasingly frequent and devastating floods and droughts, together with longer-term temperature changes, already take a heavy toll on the people who can least afford it.”

“The tasks before us are daunting and cannot be put off.”

The international community working to strengthen agriculture in poorer nations has “taken another blow” in Warsaw, after climate negotiators did little more than hold a workshop on how science can help farmers adapt to climate shifts.

Researchers are increasingly promoting a “climate-smart” approach to farming that produces “triple wins” – meaning that yields, food security and incomes go up, farmers become more resilient to climate and weather stresses, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced at the same time.

Climate-smart measures include weather-based insurance for crops, providing social safety nets and access to credit, getting weather and climate information to farmers, encouraging them to cultivate trees on their land, and managing water and soils better – in some cases earning carbon credits too.

“I understand that some (climate) negotiators do not believe there is a triple win,” Kyte said. Researchers and practitioners have a duty to explain it to them, and present data and evidence to back up their arguments, she added.

Kyte said it was time to turn the page and focus on getting agriculture onto the agenda the next time the technical body that deals with it in U.N. climate negotiations meets in June. The talks in Warsaw run through Friday, but the body that deals with agriculture, among other issues, concluded its business on Saturday.

“It’s never too late,” Kyte said, when asked if there was still time to get agriculture included in a 2015 global climate deal, on which negotiations are starting to pick up pace.

The potential for good management of agricultural landscapes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “is not yet confidently grasped by enough negotiators”, Kyte said. “How can we take that more compellingly to negotiators in the ministries which own this (U.N.) process, because we haven’t really managed to make that breakthrough?”

International agencies and research bodies that work on agriculture have “a two-year opportunity” to try to make a breakthrough, she added.

“In the meantime, everyone who is working really, really hard out there in the research stations, on the farms, in the projects around the world, needs to be supported to keep on doing what they are doing – because they are the data and the evidence,” she said.

Image: Rachel Kyte, Vice President for sustainable development at the World Bank and Minister Marcin Korolec, Polish Minister for the Environment and President of the UNFCCC COP19, Poland, at the Global Landscapes Forum in Warsaw. Photo credit: Neil Palmer (IMWI)

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