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Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Taking action for agriculture: countdown to Doha

In the last few years, great strides have been made towards agriculture’s inclusion on the official climate change policy agenda. Finally, issues related to farming, food and sustainable agriculture have gained recognition, both due to the pressing urgency for adapting farming practices to a changing climate, but also for the potential mitigation benefits. At the upcoming UN climate change meeting (COP18), in Doha later this year, countries will not discuss whether agriculture should be considered in international climate policy, but how it can help to achieve mitigation and adaptation goals.
In 2008, parties requested the UNFCCC secretariat to prepare a technical paper on the challenges and opportunities for mitigation in the agricultural sector, which was finalized later that year. Agriculture was thereafter included in the official UNFCCC meeting agenda during COP15 in Copenhagen, in 2009, where parties tried to work out a formal decision. Even if agriculture was recognized as important in tackling climate change, parties failed to agree on a legally binding agreement. This was repeated the year after, during COP16 in Cancun, which again failed to produce anything concrete. During COP17 in Durban, parties could only agree to further the discussions, during the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice in May earlier this year.  Here the discussions were heated, but formally, the outcome was a very general one: agriculture is now to be discussed as part of the official COP18 agenda in Doha later this year. Even if no formal decision has been made, the discussions have paved the way for what an agricultural work programme should include and the understanding that agriculture is one of the most vulnerable sectors to climate change.