"Target climate-smart agriculture on tomorrow's issues"

"Target climate-smart agriculture on tomorrow's issues"

The UN Climate Summit is fast approaching. On 23 September, at UN headquarters in New York, discussions will take place at the very highest level on climate change, and on how we need to respond in terms of action and ambition. Food security is figuring more and more prominently in climate discussions. Will this trend continue at the summit? Will agriculture and securing the global food supply still be high on the agenda?

“The level of interest in food as a serious global theme is indeed significant,” says LEI senior researcher Floor Brouwer. “Take, for example, the central role assigned to food security by the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Brouwer believes that this momentum is important both now and for the years ahead. He adds, “In a few years politicians will give top priority to another theme. But the serious attention from the UN, FAO, and nation states will give us researchers a solid foundation for much longer.”

We’ve heard a lot about Climate-Smart Agriculture in recent years but what exactly does this mean?

“Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) is essentially about three integrated themes. What it boils down to is the development of sustainable agriculture that can offer food security in a context of climate change. CSA focuses inherently on the future and brings a moral dimension to agricultural production. In other words, food production is seen in the light of a secure supply worldwide. Everyone involved in CSA is, in principle, co-responsible for guaranteeing food security. Here in the West we share this responsibility, even if only by virtue of the excellent biophysical conditions for agriculture and our superior knowledge and infrastructure.”

So farming is about securing the future?

“To some extent, yes. One of the reasons behind all the interest in CSA is that agriculture, in the broadest sense, is not only part of the cause of climate problems but also part of the solution. Aside from the potential benefits from more climate-neutral production, farmers have their sights set on the future. I also get the impression that they are now being acknowledged more as producers of food than polluters of the environment or energy consumers.”

How can or should LEI relate to CSA?

“There’s a lot more to CSA than technology. CSA is known everywhere as an integrated approach. So it also embraces serious economic and societal issues. And that’s where LEI comes in. We can apply our expertise, for example, to determining how and where optimal production conditions can be realised. Our insight into agricultural chains could be useful for the further conceptual development of CSA. After all, CSA is not just about containing climate change by lowering greenhouse gas emissions; it is also about adaptations that will make us more resilient to drought, excessive rainfall, and other climate shocks. Adaptation and anticipation are key. LEI has the expertise to analyse resilience in the future. Suppose someone proposes immediate compensation to keep farms healthy when they are hit by drought. How realistic is it to insure against that kind of contingency?”

What message do you hope the UN Climate Summit will send?

“I hope that the politicians at this one-day summit will make clear to the outside world that they are paying serious attention to the climate problems of tomorrow as well as today. I also hope that they will not try to find solutions to tomorrow’s problems in the conditions of today. Research is a crucial factor in envisaging scenarios for the future. I believe that LEI has a valuable contribution to make here.”