ROME, ITALY — All countries should strive to ensure an ambitious agreement to tackle climate change, putting food security and agriculture at the center of debates on the issue, said Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Director General José Graziano da Silva and French Minister for Agriculture, Stéphane Le Foll, warning that failure to do so would unravel recent progress made in combating world hunger.
Graziano da Silva and Le Foll made their appeals at a side event of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), which is meeting in Rome, Italy. They both urged countries to find an agreement on how to combat climate change ahead of the Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 United Nations climate change conference, COP21, in Paris, France.
The FAO director-general hailed the international community's recent adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which includes the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty. However, he stressed that to achieve these goals requires a “paradigm shift”towards agriculture and food systems that are more productive and inclusive, and more adapted to climate change.
"We can end extreme poverty and hunger by 2030,” Graziano da Silva said. “We know what works and we have the tools for it, but we know climate change threatens to derail our efforts. It is already impacting on food security and making hunger eradication even more difficult.
"We believe that agriculture in the broad sense, including forestry, fisheries and aquaculture, can and must play a central role in addressing climate change, particularly in adapting its impacts, such as water scarcity, soil salinity or increasing pests and diseases of plants and animals," he said.
Le Foll said that every person on the planet would bear the consequences "if the world's leaders cannot find agreement on tangible and concrete objectives" to curb global warming.
Noting that agriculture is often viewed as a problem due to its role in greenhouse-gas emissions, Le Foll called for the need to make progress with techniques that "allow us to be more economical and consume less energy."
"But anyone who looks at agriculture cannot just sit back and sort out the problem with scientific measures...because the technology must be combined with the social aspect," Le Foll said. "We need to revise our agriculture model to adapt to each ecosystem, we need a revolution that is going to use natural mechanisms to benefit production."
Graziano da Silva noted how the world's poorest and most vulnerable, some 80% of whom live in rural areas, are the hardest hit by the negative impacts of global warming including droughts and floods.
While these populations like family farmers, pastoralists, fisher folks and community foresters are highly dependent on natural resources and are the first to suffer due to weather related shocks, "they are the least responsible for climate change and cannot be expected to bear the costs of adaptation to climate change," Graziano da Silva said.
He called for more targeted policies and investments to adapt agriculture to the impacts of climate change, including reducing deforestation and overfishing, improving soil fertility and achieving lower emissions.
FAO is ready to assist countries through it activities such as agroecology, climate smart agriculture, Integrated Coastal Management, Sustainable Land Management and Forest Landscape Restoration, the director-general said.
Also speaking at the CFS side-event, which was jointly organized by FAO, France and Morocco, was Mohammed El Guerrouj, general director of Morocco's Agency for Agricultural Development (ADA) who briefed participants on lessons learned by his country's experience with its Green Morocco Plan.
Other speakers included UN Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, who stressed the humanitarian aspects of climate change mitigation and adaption, and Lapodini Atouga, Commissioner of Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources of the Economic Community of West African States who underscored the regional body's commitment to address the challenges of food security and climate change.