Building climate resilient food systems

Source(s): Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - Headquarters United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Food habits are changing, our population is growing, and – owing to human-induced climate change – many of the development gains of the past decades will be hindered.

Without adaptation to climate change in agriculture sectors, it will not be possible to achieve food security for all and eradicate hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

We know the world’s poorest people and countries are particularly hard hit by climate change. Smallholder producers – farmers, herders, fishers, forest-dependent communities, as well as women and indigenous people – are among the most vulnerable, as their subsistence almost entirely relies on natural resources. Lives and livelihoods are at risk if we don’t take action now.

So how do we achieve the goal of Zero Hunger and safeguard livelihoods, all while adapting to the adverse effects of climate change, achieving Nationally Determined Contributions and protecting development gains?

Under current scenarios, it is estimated that we will have to increase food production by a whopping 50 percent to feed the extra 2 billion people that will live on our planet by 2050.

More concerning still, we seem to be backsliding on our goal of ending hunger by 2030, with recent estimates showing that after steadily declining over the past decade, global hunger appears to be on the rise, now affecting more than 1 out of 10 people. The estimated number of undernourished people increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.

These rising demands seem to clash with goals to reduce greenhouse gasses and build a climate-resilient, zero-emission future. But because they are wholly interconnected, finding better linkages between baseline development, climate drivers and climate change will be a central component in reaching the Paris Agreement’s goals and building a future without hunger.

So how do we address these issues?

To start with, we have a commitment to end hunger, as the vast majority of world leaders agreed to do when adopting the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.

We also need to build smarter plans for development by making sure that climate change concerns, especially adaptation, are fully integrated into planning, policy and budgeting mechanisms, including in key sectors like agriculture. This is what initiatives like the joint UNDP-FAO Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans Programme (NAP-Ag) strive to support.

Through these efforts, we can continue to provide assistance in identifying viable and impactful economic options to adapt to the changing climate, tracking adaptation efforts and progress on the ground, and new approaches to obtaining finance to implement climate actions to build resilience in the agriculture sectors, all while ensuring gender equality is being addressed in national efforts.

Through programmes like these, we can improve climate governance and co-operation on the local, regional and global levels. This gives us the power needed to ensure world leaders hold true to their commitments to zero hunger, climate-resilient food production, and the achievement of countries’ commitments under the Paris Agreement.

We should aim for a world where nations are able grow economically, develop socially, feed their children and strengthen their institutions, while maintaining global temperature increase to 2 degrees, or even 1.5 degrees, by harvesting the co-benefits of mitigation and adaptation.

Feeding the world sustainably isn’t going to be easy. But by embracing innovation, empowering local climate actions and connecting the right people, we are confident we can achieve it.

About the authors

Julie Teng is a Climate Change Technical Specialist at UNDP and supports the UNDP-FAO Integrating Agriculture in National Adaptation Plans Programme (NAP-Ag). Julia Wolf is a Natural Resource Officer at FAO and coordinates the NAP-Ag Programme for FAO. Connect with these leading experts on National Adaptation Plans at COP23 in key side events on climate change adaptation.

Learn more about National Adaptation Plans: Building Climate Resilience in Agriculture in the upcoming Massive Open Online Course presented by FAO, UNDP and UNITAR. The MOOC kicks off on 13 November and is free to the public.

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