Ag Policy Blog

Food Security, Food Production Recognized in Paris Climate Deal

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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The climate accord reached Saturday in Paris provides one more avenue to keep international pressure on global food security. It also likely increases scrutiny over greenhouse-gas emissions from food production.

The Paris Agreement involving representatives from 195 countries marks the first time a climate agreement has acknowledged the importance of food security as a priority. The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization pointed that out in a statement on the deal.

"This is a game changer for the 800 million people still suffering from chronic hunger, and for 80% of the world's poor who live in rural areas and earn income - and feed their families - from agriculture sectors," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "By including food security, the international community fully acknowledges that urgent attention is needed to preserve the well-being and future of those who are on the front line of climate change threats."

The agreement specifically points to food security as one of several major areas countries need to take into account when dealing with greenhouse gas emissions and/or climate change. By signing the Paris deal, countries are "Recognizing the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change."

The climate deal does not mention "agriculture" or "farmers," but that statement highlights the importance countries should place on protecting the food supply.

Food is mentioned one other time in the 16,575-word Paris Agreement. In dealing with the long-term goal of keeping any temperature increase at manageable levels, the agreement stated that one key objective for a country would be:

"Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production," the Paris Agreement states.

In other words, the agreement tells countries that they need to be careful not to screw up food production when considering how to reduce emissions or develop adaptation strategies.

While different groups and countries may have been looking for language regarding climate-smart agriculture or agroecology, such language was not included in the official text. The lack of further language on agriculture reflects the different chasms that remain around the world when it comes to how food is grown and eaten.

Tim Grooser, New Zealand's climate minister, indicated in a Huffington Post article that the inclusion of food security will lead to a bigger role for agriculture in future climate talks.

"After many years of banging my head on a brick wall, trying to get attention for agriculture in UNFCCC, we are finally being heard," Grooser said.…

The pact seekds to manage the level of long-term temperature increases. The agreement adds another kicker for countries to try to achieve. Beyond keeping under a 2 C (3.6 F) temperature increase, countries should work harder for a goal to limit temperature increases to 1.5 C (2.7 F) through the end of the century. Doing so would significantly reduce the risks and impacts.

In United Nations vernacular, the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) -- effectively what each country is agreeing to do under the Paris talks -- only achieves about 25% of the emission reductions needed to remain under that 3.6 F increase in temperature. To remain under the 2.7 F threshold demands far greater emission reductions.

“I think this Paris outcome is going to change the world,” Christopher B. Field, a leading American climate scientist told the New York Times. “We didn’t solve the problem, but we laid the foundation.”…

The agreement will not have any official enforcement mechanisms, but it will require countries to report their emissions every five years, starting in 2023. Secretary of State John Kerry, who pushed for climate action during his time in the Senate, told "Fox News Sunday" that the reporting requirement would hold countries accountable. The reason there aren't enforcement penalties in the agreement is partially because Congress would reject them, Kerry said.

Kerry said the deal is the "best we could to set the world on a new course toward energy independence, alternative renewable energy, toward a lower carbon footprint, greater health, greater security."…

Developed countries in the agreement include the U.S., Canada, most of Europe, Australia and Japan. These countries are expected to undertake "economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets." Developing counties, including China, India and Brazil, "should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances."

The Republican-led Congress will likely bring the COP-21 agreement to floor votes so Republicans can shore up support among conservatives. Such votes also would open up a chance to show how many Democrats are unwilling to get behind such a plan while portraying Democrats or wayward Republicans who back climate action as willing to hurt the economy to combat climate action.

One of the staunchest critics of climate action in Congress, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, issued a statement Saturday citing that Congress would reject the Paris deal, which is a non-binding agreement anyway. The deal places few demands on countries such as China and India while the Obama Administration will attempt to force targeted reductions on different sectors of the economy, Inhofe stated.

“The Senate EPW Committee will continue oversight of the president’s climate agenda and the final Paris climate ‘agreement.’ Many questions have remained unanswered since the administration refused to testify in October to its plans to meet emissions reduction targets," Inhofe stated. He will plan more hearings early next year.

Various sectors of the economy will be under increasing pressure to decarbonize. The leaders of several major global automotive companies -- including Ford and General Motors -- effectively said greater efforts were needed in their industry to decarbonize in a letter last week. The CEOs actually wrote that governments need "to take a broader approach to regulating carbon dioxide from automotive transportation." The CEOs stated they needed to shift away from oil dependency and adopt new technologies.…

Agriculture will be under growing pressure to lower its footprint as well. Throughout the talks there have been arguments about the role of livestock and meat in emissions, as well as the role of biofuels. One statement coming out of the talks from a business blogger was the suggestion about decarbonizing agriculture in the future.

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Bonnie Dukowitz
12/15/2015 | 7:34 AM CST
Meat. The most efficient and most environmentally friendly method of producing energy for human consumption.
Bonnie Dukowitz
12/15/2015 | 7:34 AM CST
Meat. The most efficient and most environmentally friendly method of producing energy for human consumption.
12/14/2015 | 11:01 AM CST
Too little? The only thing this accord does is give the politicians something to feel warm fuzzy about and go home and say how great they are. Jay, are you saying you and the family are vegans?
Jay Mcginnis
12/14/2015 | 6:32 AM CST
Too little too late, that will be how history will see the Paris Climate deal. Yes power plant emissions and automotive emissions are huge but the huge "meat diet" is wrecking not only the atmosphere but destroying our resources.