If nothing is done to fight against climate change, another 600 million will suffer from undernourishment by 2080*. Climate change threatens to undo the progress made in recent years in the fight against hunger and undernourishment. Food security and the fight against climate change are inextricably linked!

Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security - © CGIAR Climate
Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security - © CGIAR Climate

Alarming projections

Droughts, erratic rainfall, rising sea levels, heat waves, the disruption of ecosystems, more frequent cyclones… Climate change strikes various regions of the world and has devastating effects on the most fragile countries. Food security, access to water, hygiene, sanitation, the health of populations: all the determinants of undernourishment are exacerbated by climate change.

If the current climate trends continue, wheat production could decline by 10 to 20% by 2030 compared to the yields of 1998-2002.[1]  The decrease in agricultural yields will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the price of basic foodstuffs. In 2009, IFPRI estimated that without climate change, the prices of basic foodstuffs such as rice, corn, wheat and soya would rise sharply between 2000 and 2050. By including the climate factor, prices will increase additionally by 23 to 37% for rice, by 52 to 55% for corn, by 94 to 111% for wheat and by 11 to 14% for soya. Furthermore, climate change will cause an unprecedented increase in plant and zoonotic diseases. The prevalence of vector-borne infectious diseases is likely to worsen, leading to a weakening of the nutritional status. Consequently, according to WHO, 2 billion people will be exposed to Dengue fever by 2080.[2]

The 2014 WHO factsheet recalls that by 2090, it is likely that climate change will extend the areas affected by drought, double the frequency of extreme droughts, and bring about a sixfold increase in their average duration.[3] Between 350 and 600 million Africans will face water scarcity (with a scenario of global warming limited to 2°C).[4] Between 2030 and 2050, it is expected that climate change will lead to some 250,000 additional deaths a year, due to malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea and stress related to heat.[5] Finally, competition over natural resources (water, grazing land) increases the risk of conflicts and migration flows, which in turn exacerbate the risk of food and nutritional insecurity.

Most vulnerable still the most affected

The most optimistic projections (+2°C at the Earth’s surface) forecast that the undernourishment rate in Africa will increase from 25 to 90% by 2050.[6] This situation reflects a paradox: those who contribute the least to climate change are those who suffer from it the most. Southern countries and the poorest households will suffer most of the human and economic damage caused by climate change, while their response capacities are often limited or exhausted.

They are mostly small producers who make their living from rainfed agriculture, fishing and livestock raising, which are livelihoods that are very highly dependent on climate and environmental conditions. Climate change and the increase in the frequency and intensity of climate hazards lead to a weakening or destruction of these livelihoods and of access to natural resources.

Climate change adaptation is under-financed

While only 10% of children suffering from acute malnutrition currently have access to the required treatment, climate change adaptation is widely under-financed. Indeed, UNEP forecasts that even by reducing our emissions, adaptation could cost up to USD 150bn by 2025/2030, and between USD 250bn and USD 500bn a year by 2050.[7] With the current state of international financing available for adaptation, we are still very far off the mark. The more time passes, the higher the economic, environmental and social cost will be.

The private sector is rightly considered as a major actor in financing sustainable development. However, there is an imbalance in private investments, which will give priority to the profitability offered by mitigation actions and invest little in financing adaptation. Consequently, how can we ensure that there is a financial mobilization on a par with the challenges in order to support small family farmers and the development of effective adaptation plans for food security?

 

Food security central to the Paris convention

The international climate agreement must enable the commitments of States to be defined in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation to the impacts of climate change and financing. It is essential that in Paris, countries recognize that climate change will have major consequences on hunger in the world and undernourishment and agree to make the fight against hunger an objective for actions taken to fight against climate change.

During the negotiations held in Geneva last February, the term “food security” appeared in the text for Paris for the first time, both in the preamble of the draft text and in the paragraph on climate change adaptation. However, there is no guarantee that it will remain there until COP21. Indeed, for the time being, the text of the negotiations is simply a compilation of very different standpoints on a wide range of issues. The numerous options leave the door open to any changes. The mention of food security must not be used as a trade-off from now until COP21 and be deleted at the last minute in order to satisfy another issue.

Finally, it is vital to remain vigilant towards the mirages created by certain “false solutions”, like the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA), which presents, for example, GMOs as an action for climate change adaptation, towards the deviations of carbon markets, and towards biofuels. Climate-smart agriculture is a concept that is far too vague. It includes extremely different agricultural models (from agroecology to the promotion of GMOs), whose environmental, social and economic impacts vary. This concept poses an enormous risk: that of making CSA a label that would legitimize productivist and agribusiness agricultural models, which until now have not managed to ensure the food security of the 560 million farmers who are suffering from hunger today. We cannot hope for a “quick fix” to allow the poorest to face the impacts of climate change. The fight against climate change and the fight against hunger are two inseparable objectives which must be considered together.

 

Consequently, there is an urgent need for the international community to address a four-pronged challenge:

  1. Adopt and implement, as a matter of urgency, an ambitious climate change mitigation action plan in order to maintain the temperature at the Earth’s surface below +2°C of global warming by 2100, with the aim of limiting the impacts of climate change on food security.
  2. Make the fight against food and nutritional insecurity a common objective for all UNFCCC parties. The climate convention that will be adopted in Paris must explicitly recognize the risks that climate change poses for food security and commit to ensuring that adaptation and mitigation measures contribute to greater food security.
  3. Rebalance the funds earmarked for mitigation and those intended for adaptation and increase additional public financing in order to assist the poorest countries in implementing strategies for adaptation and to strengthen resilience.
  4. Establish a compensation system for the losses and damage caused by climate change and which cannot be avoided.

 

 Human Development Report 2007/2008 – Fighting Climate Change: human solidarity in a divided world (UNDP)

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