San Jose, March 7, 2012 (IICA). In response to an appeal from the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) will begin immediately to systematize the knowledge and experience it has accumulated over the years regarding the preservation of natural resources and the adaptation of agriculture to climate change in Latin America and the Caribbean.
At a technical forum organized by IICA, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, said that the time has come for the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to get involved in the negotiations aimed at finding ways to mitigate the effects of and adapt to climate change.
At the most recent Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP17), the highest level body of the Convention, held in Durban, South Africa, in 2011, the need to include the topic of agriculture in negotiations intended to slow the release of greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere was recognized for the first time, given the fact that the sector contributes to and is heavily affected by climate change.
Victor M. Villalobos, Director General of IICA, stated that traditional agriculture must give way to more modern agriculture, in which natural resources are converted into food using more and sustainable methods, despite a growing scarcity of water and the increased occurrence of adverse climatic events.
“IICA believes that agriculture can be made more productive and competitive by introducing technological and other innovations, and by again applying techniques our producers have used for decades,” he said.
This shift to modern agriculture will also require the sustainable management of natural resources, especially agro-biodiversity, soil, water and forests; the incorporation of the rural-area based approach into the development strategies of nations; and the creation of value chains and markets that operate more fairly and will make it possible to increase the contribution of agriculture to food security around the globe.
A new protocol
Christiana Figueres recalled that, at the COP17, the decision was made to establish a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol (set to expire in 2012), following the decision of the industrialized countries to continue their actions aimed at lowering GHG emissions.
This includes a transition period through 2020, in which 49 developing nations, together with the group of industrialized countries, will lower their emissions by a percentage as yet undefined. In the meantime, the 195 signatory states of the UNFCCC will adopt, no later than 2015, a new global framework that will take the place of the Kyoto Protocol and will include new parameters for releasing GHG into the atmosphere that will be proportional for each country.
This new protocol will take effect in 2020, but work is already underway on the document that will serve as the basis for the global discussions to be held later this year, said Figueres. “I want to congratulate IICA for taking the initiative on this topic. This will be an excellent opportunity to present the vision of Latin America and the Caribbean regarding the adaptation of agriculture to climate change,” she added.
The COP18 will take place in Doha, Qatar, in November-December 2012.
Latin American experiences
Carolina Flores, representing the Climate Change Office of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Telecommunications of Costa Rica, explained that her country is currently creating a carbon market as part of its strategy to be carbon neutral by 2021.
Organizations and individuals can approach this market once they have reduced their GHG emissions to a minimum. “Even when compensation is offered, reduction continues to be the priority,” she said.
Tania Lopez, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Farming of Costa Rica, indicated that the agrifood sector was one of the sectors the government would want to work closely with to develop measures for mitigating the effects of and adapting to climate change, especially the livestock farming, flooded rice, coffee, sugarcane and banana subsectors, which account for 90% of agricultural gases.
According to Juan Mancebo, Director of Risk Management and Climate Change in the Ministry of Agriculture of the Dominican Republic, his nation included the topic of adaptation in its 2010-2030 development strategy.
David Williams, Manager of IICA’s Agriculture, Natural Resources Management and Climate Change Program, called attention to the role the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean can play in developing novel mitigation and adaptation measures, despite their limited ability to influence decision-making in global fora.
He added, “The technologies needed to adapt to climate change, more than being the latest, must be the most comprehensive. This can be our contribution, in addition to the great contribution we make to the world in terms of food, water and plant genetic resources,” he stated.
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