Costing and planning of agriculture's adaptation to climate change
This project looks at how developing countries can best adapt their agricultural systems to climate change.
The Government’s recent White Paper on development, “Building our common future”, set out the food security and climate change challenge. This challenge is how to double food production to feed 9 billion people by 2050 and decrease poverty through agricultural growth, while minimising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture in a hotter world with more extremes of weather. This issue will have a major impact on food security in the developing world, and the poorest are likely to be those hardest hit.
The climate change debate has been somewhat removed from the agriculture policy debate. This is changing. There is agreement that agriculture needs to be included in post 2012 agreements, but we need to determine how best to do this. Emissions from agriculture and land-use change account for 30% of global carbon emissions. More than two thirds of this are estimated to come from developing countries. Indeed, emissions from agriculture represent a large share of total emissions from low income countries. However, it is not clear to what extent there is scope to reduce emissions from agriculture. There is likely to be scope to decrease GHG intensity of agricultural output. But it is less certain whether absolute cuts in emissions are either feasible or good value.
Higher temperatures will mean crops that poor people depend upon will no longer grow in some areas. Some regions will experience less rainfall while others more. The frequency of droughts and floods will increase, water flows will become more unpredictable, and coastal food-producing areas will be inundated. In regions receiving more rainfall, increases in temperature will increase water demand from crops because of higher evapo-transpiration. These will all have major impacts on food security, food prices and malnutrition in the developing world.The poorest of the poor will be the hardest hit, especially as agriculture is the main source of living for the majority of these people. Loss of agricultural land and competition for resources, especially water, has the potential to cause large scale migration and conflict.
Major investments in adapting agriculture to climate change are therefore going to be needed to build resilience and protect the poor. This will need to be alongside measures to mitigate GHG emissions, and isolate carbon in agricultural systems. Proposed mechanisms for addressing GHG emissions from agriculture include mitigation financing under NAMAs (Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions) and reforms to the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Investments in adaptation now need to avoid “locking” countries into a high emissions route. An understanding is also needed of optimal adaptation and mitigation points. This is to know when more radical measures smay be needed such as migration and/or leaving the agriculture sector when it is no longer a viable livelihood route.
It is expected that there is the potential for win-wins between mitigation and adaptation in agriculture. Low carbon approaches, such as conservation tillage, may help reduce the threat of erosion by heavy rainfall. Also, soil quality improvement to isolate carbon within the agricultural system should help increase output. This will potentially raise farmers' incomes, giving them more adaptation options.
See our related work on REDD and agriculture.
Country case study reports