21 Dec 2015

GNR at COP21: Climate Change, Agroecology, Nutrition, and Food Security

Yves Martin-Prével Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)

As kindly advertised by my GNR-IEG colleague Rachel Nugent, during the side event about “Climate and Nutrition: A Double Win for Sustainable Development” that she moderated at the COP21, I had the privilege to participate in another COP21 side-event about climate change and nutrition at Le Bourget, on the 3rd of December. This one, entitled “Climate Change, Agroecology, Nutrition, and Food Security: Critical lessons from project interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa”, was held at the Africa Pavilion and was co-organised by Cornell University, IFPRI, IRD and UNDP.

COP21 Cornell Side Event Africa Pavillion Flyer

I made a presentation about “Nutrition and food security in a warming world: Outlook and Opportunities for Africa” which, in short, was to present main messages from the 2015 GNR, particularly featuring the excellent Chapter 6 written by Madeleine Thomson et al. There were 2 other presentations:

  • Charles Nyandiga (UNDP New York) presented interesting climate-smart innovative agro-ecology experiences from communities having received a small grant from the UNDP Global Environment Facility. His main message was on the importance of improving community resilience through agricultural practices that take into account indigenous knowledge and traditions and the strong added element of ecological considerations to the usual short-term production oriented agriculture.
  • Johannes Lehmann (Cornell University) presented Ethiopia’s climate smart initiative (CSI) which aims to integrate the implications of climate change into the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) activities. He showed how much carefully designed food-security interventions could contribute to climate-change mitigation, and highlighted the opportunity for PSNP to access climate finance and possibly payments from ecosystem services.

Entrance display featuring national flags displayed on wide and tall posts

What struck me when preparing my own presentation, as well as when listening to my colleagues, is how much the climate change community focuses on the food security pathway and thinks primarily of the impact of climate change on “undernutrition” (which by the way, often get mixed up with “undernourishment”). It was therefore welcome that using Figure 6.1 of the 2015 GNR (p 77) I could go into detail on the other pathways and also insist that if climate change can impair nutrition (and thus decrease potential for adaptation or mitigation), healthy food choices can in turn help mitigate climate change. All in all, this reinforced the final message I tried to convey to the audience: the nutrition and climate change communities should speak to each other and work together, in order to achieve a “Double Win for Sustainable Development”, as announced in the side-event Rachel moderated.

But a tricky question was raised by the audience, from a gentleman who said, in substance: “The three presentations were really interesting; however, what can we capture from them that could be brought to the negotiations to help make the final statement of the COP21 more binding?”

My answer was that I couldn’t offer any figure as a target or objective, but that what I know we all should insist on is for governments and international organisations to do their best to actually measure what is happening in terms of climate change mitigation and what are the means that are put to make progress. It is simply a matter of accountability; in fact, this is what the GNR is all about.

Attendees and speakers at COP21

Allison Chatrchyan (Cornell), Johannes Lehmann (Cornell), Charles Nyandiga (UNDP), Yves Martin-Prevel (IRD)

Yves Martin-Prével is a member of the GNR Independent Expert Group.