For far too long it seemed that agriculture was the odd one out in global climate negotiations. Although the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) makes specific reference to food production and agriculture, in Article II and IV, respectively, it has been difficult for agriculture to receive the desired focus within climate change discourse. Attempts to include agriculture in schemes such as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) were thwarted and agriculture was instead lumped together with bunker fuels under cooperative sectoral approaches. At the 17thConference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP17) held in Durban, South Africa in 2011, agriculture was decoupled from bunker fuels and sent to the technical body of the Convention, the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA), for consideration. The discussions under SBSTA, through in-session workshops, lasted six years and culminated in the adoption of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) at COP23 presided by Fiji and held in Bonn, Germany in 2017.
The KJWA has put agriculture centre stage, and for good reason. For much of the developing world, agriculture is the foremost source of livelihoods, and as the recently released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report observes, populations dependent on agricultural livelihoods are disproportionately at risk of a changing climate. Furthermore, agriculture is a critical solution for emission reduction, as agriculture and forestry account for nearly one-quarter of global emissions.
Needless to say, it is vital that agriculture finds itself at the centre of global climate negotiations, and the KJWA does exactly that. By mainstreaming agriculture into the UNFCCC processes, the KJWA will contribute to achieving the objectives of the Convention by harnessing synergies between adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture sector. This is particularly pertinent for the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), where agriculture is vital to both local and national economies, as well as a source of livelihoods and employment.
The KJWA also brings together SBSTA and the implementing body, the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI), of the UNFCCC. Such a setup brings with it many opportunities, as it strengthens science-policy-practice linkages, with the potential to catalyse increased investments in agricultural research to inform policy and decision-making at all levels.
The African Group of Negotiators Expert Support team (AGNES) – with technical and financial support from the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development Agency (AU-NEPAD), German Development Cooperation Adaptation of Agriculture to Climate Change in Africa (GIZ-CAADP), the International Development Research Centre, the World Bank, FAO, the African Centre for Technology Studies, and the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security – have provided critical support to work leading to the adoption of the KJWA.
The technical topics set out in the KJWA span an important range of areas pertinent for agricultural transformation towards low-carbon, climate-resilient food systems. The topics include: defining tools and mechanisms to support implementation; methods to boost adaptive capacity and resilience; techniques to enhance soil health and fertility; approaches to improve nutrient use, manure management, and livestock systems; as well as comprehensively assessing the socio-economic and food security dimensions of a changing climate within the agricultural sector. Integral to the ACP countries will be the implementation of climate-smart agriculture, involving agricultural practices that seek to boost production and adaptive resilience, while reducing emissions across the agricultural sector.