November 29, 2011

Discussion Paper_Myth of Climate Smart Agriculture; What is at stake at Durban?

Discussion paper for COP 17 side event
Climate Smart Agriculture; Whether a Myth or Reality
Saturday, 03 Dec 2011, 11:30—13:00, Room 5

Organized by Beyond Copenhagen and MISEREOR

Feedback and comments are welcome at

Why it is important to talk about agriculture in climate change; impacts and likely impacts of climate change on agriculture

Climate change is not only an environmental issue but a defining problem for generations to come which can slow down the pace of progress towards sustainable development either directly through increased exposure to adverse impact or indirectly through erosion of the capacity to adapt. It is estimated that developing countries will bear some 75 to 80% of the costs of the damages caused by the changing climate. Even if global warming is limited to 2DC (which is definitely not the case as of now), the costs of adaptation for developing countries are likely to be in the range of $ 75 billion to $ 100 billion a year in the period 2010 to 2050 (World Bank, 2009). It will have significant bearing on the sustainable development and poverty reduction in developing countries and their ability to attain Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

Globally, 1.7 billion farmers depend on agriculture, the proportion of which is substantially large in developing and least developed countries. The increasingly erratic climate variability & unpredictable extremes of weather are already having adverse impacts on agriculture & food security, which will increase - as it may alter the balance between food demand and supply. South Asia and Africa are projected to be particularly vulnerable to these changes due to their large populations and great dependence on agriculture for livelihoods. Majority of the developing countries and small island states are most likely to be affected by climate-change impacts. Even with a temperature rise of 1–2°C, the IPCC predicts serious effects, including reduced crop yields in tropical areas leading to increased risk of hunger, spread of climate-sensitive diseases such as malaria, water stress in Africa, increased risk of floods followed by drought and water scarcity for millions of people, inundation of coasts and threat of stronger tropical cyclones, complete submergence of some small island states and an increased risk of extinction of 20–30% of all plant and animal species.

With public spending of less than 4%, agriculture contributes 29% of developing countries GDP and provides employment to 20% of the global and 65% of developing countries populations. The impact on agriculture will have profound impact on livelihoods, food production and access to food. Even without climate change impacts, prices are expected to increase significantly as population and income growth outstrip productivity and increase in total land area in agriculture. Climate change will further exacerbate this trend with wheat prices increasing by an additional 94-111% and maize by 52-55%. South Asia, a net exporter of food, is expected to become net importer of food by 2050 in no climate change scenario and with climate change its imports are estimated to increase by 550%. Sub Saharan Africa’s imports are expected to increase by 270% depending on the scenario. Latin America and the Caribbean countries would gain substantially and might turn into net exporter of cereals.[1]

Agriculture and climate change connection
It is alleged that agriculture contributes to around 12% of total GHG emissions and it could be as high as 30% including land use changes and deforestation. The sector is responsible for 47% of the world methane emission and 58% of the nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. Methane contributes of 3.3 Gt of CO2 eq per year through enteric fermentation in livestock, and nitrous oxide contributes 2.8% Gt CO2 eq as emissions from the soils as a result of application of nitrogen fertilizers and as nitrogen excreted in livestock feces and urine. Co 2 accounts to only a small proportion of agricultural emissions. Agricultural soils both emit and absorb large fluxes of Co2 resulting in small net emission of 40 Mt Co2 eq, less than 1% of global anthropogenic emissions.

It is alleged that more than 75% of these emissions originate in developing countries and can be easily mitigated through soil carbon sequestration. That by implication means that developing countries who are already under huge impacts of climate change brought about by the developed world will also have to take the burden of mitigation and adaptation also. The developing countries also have failed to see through the design, that under the pretext of agriculture and food takes the focus out of sources of emission in the developed countries and being lured by money that mitigation in agriculture can bring to them. While we later come back to what is being offered on the table through rosy pictures of soil carbon sequestration to developing countries, let us first understand the agricultural emissions in developed and developing countries.
There is no denying the fact that majority of the agricultural emissions come from developing countries. The argument is also being extended to show how inefficient developing countries are in managing their agricultural emissions. However, as a matter of fact developed countries use three times more energy in producing one unit of food as compared to developing countries. The agricultural emissions of developing countries are huge only because the area of agriculture and livestock headcount in developing countries is far greater than in developed countries, where agriculture is highly mechanized and is a purely economic activity engaging insignificant proportion of population (less than 1% of the population in the US is engaged in agriculture) and makes insignificant contribution to the GDP. In absolute terms agricultural emissions in developed countries far outstrip the emissions in developing countries. In fact, mitigation in agriculture is being promoted by countries who have significant proportion of their emissions coming from agricultural exports and should be addressed first.
Agriculture in the UNFCCC and climate change negotiations
The Convention places obligations on Parties that could directly or indirectly affect agricultural activities. The linkage between climate change and agriculture is addressed directly in Article 2 of the treaty which states:

stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system… should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Under Article 4 of the Convention, developed countries have the specific obligation to “adopt national policies and take corresponding measures on the mitigation of climate change by {…} protecting and enhancing its greenhouse gas sinks and reservoirs.” Preambular paragraph 4 of the Convention also mentions the role and importance of sinks and reservoirs of GHGs in terrestrial ecosystems. When formulating Party obligations, the Convention, rather than focusing on specific mandatory obligations, focuses on general preparatory measures, such as to:

· Promote and cooperate in the development, application and diffusion, including transfer, of technologies, practices and processes that control, reduce or prevent anthropogenic emissions of GHGs in all relevant sectors including {…} agriculture.
· Promote sustainable management, and to promote and cooperate in the conservation and enhancement, as appropriate, of sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gasses {…} including biomass.
· Cooperate in preparing for adaptation to climate change; develop and elaborate appropriate and integrated plans

In climate change negotiations, agriculture appeared in draft decision “J” in the LCA text in Copenhagen under the umbrella of article “I.b.iv” of the Bali Action Plan referred to as “cross-sectoral approaches,” mainly promoted by the agriculture export dominated “Umbrella Group” countries of New Zealand, Canada, Australia, supported by Switzerland and the United States. Later on few developing countries including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Philippines, Thailand, Bolivia have been participating in the debate. Saudi Arabia also remains engaged on this issue given that oil and energy are critical elements of “cross-sectoral” mitigation actions. In Bonn, India and African countries also engaged on this issue, with the concern of unilateral trade measures being imposed by certain countries in agricultural trade.

The entire focus in agriculture remained on mitigation and the LCA adaptation chapter had only a footnote reference to agriculture linking the sector to projects and programmes. The COP 15 at Copenhagen remained embroiled in power politics and the three page outcome text of Copenhagen did not have any reference to agriculture. Post CPH, responding to the call of Copenhagen Accord (CA) to inform UNFCCC of their quantified economy wise emission targets, 35 developing countries included agriculture in their NAMAs. Subsequent meetings (at Tianjin and Bonn) further included texts in LCA (mitigation in agriculture) on the proposals of G-77, Argentina and Bolivia, and requested Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) of the UNFCCC to develop a Work Programme on Agriculture to study the impacts of climate change in agriculture and come up with firm proposals on mitigation. In the meantime a Global Research Alliance on Agricultural GHGs was launched led by NZ, US and Japan also. The Cancun Cop failed to push work programme on agriculture and all the text from mitigation chapter in the LCA was dropped.

In Bangkok and Bonn inter sessional Conferences , the agenda fight also brought back the attention on agriculture on the issue whether agriculture should remain in the LCA or should be delegated to the SBSTA. New Zealand and Canada proposed a direct SBSTA work program or a broader discussion in the LCA outside of 1.b.iv, while the G-77 insisted that the framework of the Bali Action Plan be adhered to and thus agriculture should remain under 1.b.iv. They also pushed to address agriculture within the LCA in “additional matters” rather than under “cross-sectoral approaches” so as to remove references to trade in previous agriculture drafts. In the end, the G-77 fought hard to keep agriculture under cross-sectoral approaches, where they felt a general framework for cross sectoral approaches needed to be developed balancing all sectors, including bunker fuels. New Zealand and others wanted to launch the work program and/or deal with agriculture outside of cross-sectoral approaches to avoid a trade discussion. They also asserted that they wanted to address both adaptation and mitigation regarding agriculture.

As of now, agriculture is not on the SBSTA agenda but remains in “cross sectoral approaches.” However, there are pressures from other quarters as well. The CancĂșn Agreement, which form the basis of continuing negotiations, emphasize the role of carbon markets in climate finance, paving the way for an increase in agricultural offsets. LULUCF is being renegotiated as AFOLU to include most of the agriculture as Agriculture, Forestry and Land Use. It is mention worthy that under LULUCF reporting emissions from agriculture was optional which developed countries use to their advantage by not reporting. However, of late developing countries have shrilled the campaign on closing the gap in the LULUCF and hence developed countries want more market based mechanism to reduce their emissions and hence demand for including soil carbon sequestration under market based mechanism through REDD Plus. Originally REDD Plus allowed less than 1% carbon credits through soil carbon sequestration. Though REDD Plus is still being negotiated World Bank and FAO have already launched their pilot projects on soil carbon sequestration!

What’s the problem with soil carbon sequestration?
The soil carbon sequestration is a methodology mired in inadequate scientific knowledge, inappropriate existing data and capacity of countries to measure soil carbon given the large diversity in different agro climatic zones, and unsound techniques for evaluation. The technical difficulties and key uncertainties for carbon stocks accounting were strong enough reasons to dissuade the negotiators from including soil carbon sequestration in CDM originally. The Kyoto Protocol had ruled that soil carbon sequestration and avoided deforestation are not eligible for CDM credits. Now, economic and political powers (led by the World Bank, FAO, large agribusiness, and interested countries) are looking eagerly to rewrite the rules by expanding the eligibility of CDM projects to soil carbon sequestration mitigation activities, leaving aside the complexity and uncertainty of accounting for reductions in these sectors. However, new push for mitigation in agriculture shoves off all problems experienced and encountered till date. It is interesting to note that pilot projects launched for soil carbon sequestration does not have any baseline![2]

Climate smart agriculture and the associated evils
The climate smart agriculture being pushed down the throats of small farmers in the world is advocated as triple win, increased food production, cash for poor farmers and climate resilience in farming. It sounds impressive. However, there are no models yet to show that it can happen in the way which is being proposed. In fact what climate smart agriculture promotes is technical fixes in agriculture through no till conservation, increased use of GMOs and pesticide, agrofuels, industrialization and corporatization of agriculture. The hosts of solutions being offered have two certainties, one they will result in substantial profits for the agribusiness TNCs and secondly, they will be catastrophic for small farmers, which will not only be herded into large farm tracts to facilitate climate smart agriculture, but will also completely lose their sovereignty over seed, land, production and their autonomy to produce what they need and want.

Let us have a look at some of the proposals on the table, which are being proposed as a means to climate smart agriculture and sure shot formulae for sequestration of soil carbon (carbon transactions are today a US $ 300 billion market) and cannot in any way be a solution to the crisis either in agriculture or climate.

GM Crops: GM crops are not only dangerous for human and animal health and environment but also greatest threats to the seed sovereignty of small farmers. They are also increasing the danger of depleting the world’s seed-diversity, crucially important in a climate-challenged world. Only Du Pont has more than 40% of the patents registered for climate ready crops between 2008 to 2009. Together with Monsanto and BASF, it controls more than 66% of the patents registered.

No till or conservation agriculture: Monsanto has been lobbying since 1998 to get no till agriculture approved as CDM methodology. It claims that its round up ready products help tackle climate change, as they do not require tilling and control weeding by heavy dousing of round up herbicides. Approval to no till agriculture methodology will enable it to lure farmers with the dreams of accessing carbon credits and sale of its chemicals will result in unimaginable profits. However, it will be a sure disaster for small holders and poor farmers, with companies falling over one another to control larger tracts of lands.

Biochar: Bio char methodology is based on the premise that applying charcoal to soils will create permanent carbon sinks and increase soil fertility and water retention. The concept originated from the discovery of organic carbon rich soil, or ‘terra preta’, in the Amazons. It entails huge tracts of lands being kept fallow for centuries, requires ½ to 1 billion ha for carbon sequestration, which would have to be uncultivated for long times to come. To have any significant contribution in reducing agricultural emissions, the land required is 1.5 to 3 times the area of India. Whether land can be available at such a scale, can be taken out of critically needed food production - are huge questions? The UN Convention for Combating Desertification has already proposed bio-char, however, it did not find favor with many countries as it has serious impacts on fertility of the soil, food security for the present and significant contribution to acid rains. No biochar methodology has been approved by the CDM board yet, but a charcoal methodology has been approved which can be easily used by TNCs for biochar. Besides Plantar (Brazil) which initiated the proposed methodology and has extensive Eucalyptus plantations in Brazil, and Arborgen (South Carolina, USA), which develops genetically-engineered eucalyptus, are likely to benefit from it in a huge way. A recent study by MISEREOR has showed that none of the pilot projects on bio-char have been able to demonstrate any substantial benefit, and many of them have been already abandoned by the promoters.[3]

Agrofuels: The CDM Board has approved (2009) a methodology for biodiesel production from dedicated plantations on ‘degraded or degrading land’. The definition of “degrading land” is so ambiguous that it covers almost all agricultural land and all ecosystems. Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill have benefitted directly and earned carbon credits. Other big biotech companies are also eyeing benefits from this methodology. It also needs to be noted that, with the spike in agro-fuel production in 2003-04, the amount of land under conflict, and the no of land conflicts – have also sharply increased. It is mostly the land belonging to the indigenous communities and the village commons which are being targeted for agro fuel plantations, leading to serious existential crisis for these already threatened societies. On top of that, agro-fuels have large water foot-prints, aggravating an already serious water crisis due to the changing climate.

Agriculture financing needs and finance inflow from mitigation to agriculture; peanuts to peasants of the world

Large investments are required in agriculture to meet the projected demands and sustain food security needs. Even without climate change impacts, it is estimated that global investments of the order of US$ 9.2 billion annually will be required by mid century (FAO, 2009). Asia accounts for the largest share of investment (57%), with China and India alone requiring 41% of the projected investment. Sub Saharan and East and North Africa require 23% and Latin America requiring remaining 20%.

However, the public spending in agriculture is 4% in agricultural economies (developing and LDCs), which has risen significantly in the aftermath of food crises to 6%. More than 2/3rds of the investment in agriculture has come from private sector. Through local investments and FDI. About US $ 14 billion has been committed to farmland and agriculture infrastructure investment globally among more than 50 firms Agribusiness TNCs (OECD, 2010). UN statistics show that FDI in global agriculture production tripled between 1990-2001 to US $ 3 billion annually from less than US41 billion. The geographical focus of the investment centred on South America (led by brazil) and Africa. These private investments are being deployed focused on production of major raw crops including oilseeds, corn, wheat and feed grains (83%), followed by in livestock production (13%). The trend shows a definite inclination towards forcing agricultural production to oil seeds, agro fuels and meat production. Low levels of public investment in agriculture have resulted in inadequate development in rural infrastructure, knowledge generation, and access to food and markets, which have kept the small farmers trapped in poverty.

Cancun agreement committed to mobilize US$ 30 billion from 2010-2012 to be scaled up to US$ 100 billion from 2020 onwards. There are significant uncertainties about from where the resources will be mobilized, and how it will be channelized. The apparent lack of money in agricultural finance has also provided an opportunity to advocates of market based mechanisms to ask for including agricultural mitigation in the CDM for look for new opportunities within market based mechanisms. However, as a matter of fact, even agricultural mitigation has awfully small money to offer to agriculture. Following financial channels are supposed to be main sources of finance for mitigation and a also adaptation in agriculture”

The global Environment Facility Trust Fund (GEF): The GEF operates the current financial mechanism of the Convention. For the period 2010–2014, a total of US$4.25 billion has been pledged, of which about US$1.35 billion is expected to be delivered to mitigation projects.[4] These figures are considerably lower than the funding generated under the CDM and the sums are expected to flow through the Green Climate Fund, the GEF Trust Fund remains one of the largest sources of grant-based finance for mitigation.[5]

UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol linked funds: The GEF also operates two other funds under the Convention: the Special Climate Change Fund, which focuses mainly on adaptation, and the Least Developed Countries Fund, which assists least-developed countries in preparing and implementing their NAPAs. Both funds provide adaptation funding for agriculture-related projects. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the Adaptation Fund supports projects and program in developing countries and is financed through a 2 percent levy on the share of proceeds from CDM project activities. Most of the projects accepted and proposed for funding to date have agriculture as a component.[6]

The Green Climate Fund: The Cancun Agreements established the Green Climate Fund (GCF) as a financial mechanism under the Convention, with the World Bank serving as an interim trustee subject to a review three years after the fund begins operations. It is likely that the GCF will be set up by 2012, although it remains unclear where the resources for the GCF will come from and how much time it will take until the GCF starts receiving and channeling these funds to developing countries. It is also not clear to what extent the GCF will replace the GEF as the financial operating entity under the UNFCCC. The fact that Parties agreed that a significant share of adaptation funding will flow through the GCF shows that they expect a stronger role for the GCF in climate funding, at least with respect to finance for adaptation measures.

Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs): NAMAs are voluntary mitigation actions by developing countries in the context of sustainable development goals and objectives that reduce emissions below the business-as usual baseline. Many developing countries have listed a number of activities related to agriculture in their NAMAs, for which they require international financial support. However, the quantum and channel of support is indeterminable till date.

REDD+ and CDM: Though highly contentious, CDM and REDD Plus are being renegotied to include agriculture, if that happens some finance will be available through this channel. However, most of them are likely to go the countries and agribusiness companies given the fact that claiming carbon credits is highly resource intensive and technical, and farmers and farming communities will have minimal access to whatever finance is available.

The truth of carbon finance for farmers; story of World Bank pilot project on soil carbon sequestration
The World Bank's flagship Biocarbon Fund project is billed as a triple win for more food production, cash for the poor and climate resilience. Really? The reality is that Africa's first "soil carbon" project – which will involve 60,000 Kenyan farmers planting trees, manuring the land, and farming in "sustainable" ways to save around 600,000 tonnes of carbon over 20 years – also exhibits the sheer madness of the carbon markets.

The US-based Institute for Agriculture Trade Policy (IATP) has now analysed the fine print and found (PDF) that the project expects to earn $2.5m from the carbon markets. But to set it up, to employ advisers and consultants and to monitor it will cost $1.05m. The 60,000 farmers will then share the remaining $1.4m. This sounds good, but works out at a lowly $23.83 each over the 20 years, or just a little more that $1 per year. Moreover, they will only earn this if they change the way they farm and record precisely what they plant, burn and put on the land. Given that the poverty line in Kenya is around $1 a day, the chance for Africans to earn a tiny amount a year – while Swedish and other advisers earn massive amounts – is likely to end in tears.

Source: IATP

What is stake at Durban
Having failed at Cancun in their designs, advocates of climate smart agriculture have redoubled their efforts for Durban. World Bank has convinced African Governments about the only solution to agriculture, that is “climate smart agriculture” so much so that South African Govt. sees agriculture as one of the major deliverables at Durban. Reportedly, hosts have also organized a pre conference meeting of agriculture Ministers to reach a consensus.

Consensus in the run up to Durban or at Durban will likely be difficult. However, it is also clear that the World Bank wants to ramp up its engagement on agriculture by convincing African governments in particular, that agriculture could be a lucrative opportunity to attract carbon finance. With talk about “partnership,” “readiness” and “early action,” it appears that the World Bank and others would like to launch a similar process with agriculture as REDD. There seems to be a hope that, as in REDD, pilot projects can create a political momentum for carbon markets to include soil carbon. This is likely to be a tough sell to sound investors given the numerous difficulties the carbon market is facing today and with the carbon price crashing.[7]

What do farmers want
There is considerable difference of opinion among the farmers’ organizations and civil society organizations working with farmers on the role of agriculture in climate negotiations. While most of them, see inclusion of agriculture only as a ploy of developed countries and agribusiness companies to rake up profit through mitigation in agriculture and are strongly opposed to any reference to agriculture in climate negotiations; there are others like Beyond Copenhagen who believe that while keeping agriculture completely out of climate negotiations might not be possible under intense pressure from umbrella groups and campaigning by big TNCs, it would be a better approach to help set games of the rules based on focus on adaptation, capacity building and technology transfer for adaptation needs of small farmers. We are extremely convinced that farming communities do have sufficient resilience against climate change and in the absence of which agriculture would have been in complete disarray given the impacts on agriculture. We strongly believe that much of the desired investment in agriculture will have to be come from public finance. Private investment in agriculture will be motivated by controlling and monopolizing agriculture in developing countries at the hands of big agribusiness TNCS and it shall have to be tailored by national governments to suit the needs of agriculture and farmers. The current debate on agriculture in climate negotiations offering technological fixes not only do not offer credible solution to the multiple crises of climate change, agriculture and food, but will definitely accentuate the crises. The international climate change negotiations are influencing national policies and especially agricultural policies to follow the international prescription, which is highly dangerous. The climate negotiators must make a distinction between highly industrialized high input western agriculture and low input sustainable agriculture in developing countries and mitigation in agriculture, if at all has to begin in countries with high emissions in absolute terms. The developing countries need to understand that climate change and agricultural solutions will have to be small farmer friendly, which are in dire need to adaptation support without being further burdened by mitigation. Sustaining small farmers agriculture in developing countries can only sustain economic growth with equity and food production and security, and mitigate climate change.

[1] Addressing Agriculture in Climate change Negotiations, A scoping Report, Meridian Institute, 2011
[2] Turning farms into carbon sinks; agriculture and the COP 16 in cancun, Joanna Cabello, GIZ, January 2011
[3] Biochar-a climate smart solution, Almuth Ernsting, MISEREOR, July 2011
[5] World Bank. Making the most of public finance for low‐carbon growth. 2009,
[7] Agriculture to feature as a key issue on the Road to Durban: opens up critical debates, Andrew Ranallo, June 2011

1 comment:

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