Life after COP15 – agriculture is part of the solution

18 January, 2010 by (comments)

CIAT’s Andy Jarvis on why there are reasons to be optimistic after COP15.

As the dust settles following the United Nations’ COP15 Climate Change summit last month, it is important to evaluate some of its small, but significant successes.


CIAT was present in Copenhagen, contributing to a unified message from many like-minded institutions, that agriculture must be included in any plans to address climate change.

And while the conference will be remembered for the failure of national governments to agree strict, binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions, this overshadows the progress made with respect to recognizing the role of agriculture in tackling climate change.

In short, there are reasons to be optimistic.Part of the problem, part of the solution
There is no doubt about it, agriculture is a major part of the climate change problem. It is a net contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, primarily through livestock production and the use of chemical fertilizers, as well as through indirect contributions, such as food transportation.But agriculture is also a significant part of the solution to climate change. There are many opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, which at the same time enhance on-farm productivity and contribute to climate change adaptation.

These include many of the lines of work in which CIAT is directly involved, for example, the use of improved forages to improve livestock production, and better soil fertility management. Such eco-efficient practices – which CIAT strongly endorses and promotes – can significantly reduce the impact of agriculture on the environment, and the sector’s future contributions greenhouse gas emissions.

COP15’s recognition of the importance of agriculture in tackling climate change is, therefore, no small achievement. Now we need to carry that momentum forward.Adaptation – funding the future
In addition, eco-efficient agriculture can help small producers adapt effectively to the effects of climate change. Already, the rural poor in many developing countries are among the first victims, as they suffer the effects of unpredictable rains, and the increasing frequency of drought.By improving agricultural practices and funding adaptation research and implementation, eco-efficient agriculture can both improve environmental sustainability and improve rural livelihoods.

While COP15 saw great international focus on the role of forest protection in mitigating climate change, the event also saw the pendulum swing towards the creation of an adaptation fund. At CIAT, our message is – clear: any adaptation fund must give due prominence to agriculture.

We will continue to lobby strongly for this.

So, while many commentators were disappointed with some of the outcomes of COP15 – and CIAT is no exception – we must not dwell on this. Instead we must continue to apply pressure, to ensure that agriculture continues to be prominent in any discussions on climate change in 2010, and that COP16 in Mexico City in November makes up for the shortcomings of COP15, and builds on some of its under-reported achievements.


While in Copenhagen, CIAT launched its “adaptation road map” concept, which we are using to evaluate the most appropriate actions for confronting climate change in developing countries. The flyers are available here. We have already completed our first national study of agriculture and climate change in Laos and we will soon issue one for Colombia, and one for Thailand later in the year.

  • Read what The Economist made of the importance of agriculture at COP15 here.
  • For more information about the COP15 side event Agriculture & Rural Development Day (ARDD), see here.
  • For CIAT pictures from COP15, ARDD, and Forest Day, see the Flickr set here.
  • For the CGIAR’s coverage of COP15 and the associated side events, see here.

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Filed Under: Inside CIAT, Latin America and the Caribbean, Regions