Photo: Jörg Böthling


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At a side event during the recent UN Climate Conference at Bonn (COP 23), Martin Frick, Senior Director for Policy and Programme Coordination, UNFCCC, said “agriculture is the Cinderella in climate discussions. At the moment she is peeling potatoes in the kitchen but very soon she could be the Princess at the ball.” Is this true or merely the optimistic perspective of a professional committed to agriculture and climate change?

Agriculture has been one of the most complex topics in climate negotiations. It has all the features of a tricky problem: climate change affects agriculture in all parts of the world but with very different impacts; food security, livelihoods and trade are key sovereign interests that all parties seek to protect; agriculture policies are closely linked and affected by other international agreements particularly related to trade and subsidies; and agriculture is central to adaptation and mitigation but with a high degree of specificity, making standardisation and measurement difficult.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by 197 nations, has protection of food security at its centre. Article 2 of the Convention states that its ultimate objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, noting that “Such a level should be achieved within a time frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner” (UN, 1992).

Agriculture and agriculture-driven land use change contribute around 17 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

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