|Coordinated, cohesive participation by the Americas at COP26 is crucial to achieve global objectives in the fight against climate change and to ensure that the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will not put food production at risk.|
|Top: Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture of the United States; Cleber Oliveira Soares, Undersecretary for Innovation, Rural Development and Irrigation of Brazil; and Pedro Álava González, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Ecuador. Middle: Víctor Villalobos Arámbula, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico; Augusto Valderrama, Minister of Agricultural Development of Panama; and Alfred Prospere, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development of Saint Lucia. Bottom: Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA; and Lloyd Day, Deputy Director General of IICA.|
|San Jose, 28 October 2021 (IICA).Boosting food production and caring for the environment are not mutually exclusive, but rather complementary efforts, stated the ministers of Agriculture of the Americas ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held next week in Glasgow, Scotland.|
During a High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change in the Agriculture Sector, the ministers and secretaries of the United States, Ecuador, Panama, Saint Lucia, Mexico and Brazil, together with the Director General and Deputy Director General of IICA, agreed on the need for the agriculture sector to participate more actively in the climate agenda and for producers to play a leading role in the changes required to achieve sustainability.
At the meeting, the ministers ratified the collective vision of governments in the region, which, at the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September, shared a document containing 16 messages that summarize their joint position regarding necessary changes in the agriculture sector.
The Americas was the only continent that arrived at the global meeting with a joint position following an extensive discussion process coordinated by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The participants of the High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change in the Agriculture Sector, convened by IICA and held virtually, were Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture of the United States; Pedro Álava González, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Ecuador; Augusto Valderrama, Minister of Agricultural Development of Panama; Alfred Prospere, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development of Saint Lucia; Víctor Villalobos Arámbula, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development of Mexico; and Cleber Oliveira Soares, Undersecretary for Innovation, Rural Development and Irrigation of Brazil.
The opening and closing remarks were delivered by Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA, while Lloyd Day, Deputy Director General of the Institute, served as moderator.
“Our agricultural producers have been affected by the pandemic and also by forest fires, droughts and increasingly unpredictable weather conditions. It is crucial that we convey our understanding of the need to act collectively and collaboratively to build resilience, respecting both small-scale producers and large agribusinesses,” explained Vilsack.
The Secretary of Agriculture of the United States valued IICA’s role in advocating for the participation of the agriculture sector in policy negotiations and underscored the importance of research and innovation in addressing the effects of climate change.
“As agricultural leaders in our hemisphere, we had never been this aware of the relationship between agriculture, trade, climate change and sustainability. Under IICA’s leadership, we will rise to the challenge not only at COP26, but also in the future”, concluded Vilsack.
“All food-producing countries must be clear on the fact that climate change will change everything”, warned Álava González, who reviewed the adaptation initiatives that the government of Ecuador has undertaken.
González listed the threats that climate change poses to agriculture, such as the appearance of new pests and diseases and changes in soil drainage due to rising sea levels. “Whatever happens in Glasgow”, he remarked, “will point us in the direction we must follow”.
Prospere explained that food security in Saint Lucia – a small island state that is highly vulnerable to climate change – has been gravely affected by extreme weather events. For instance, he recalled that Saint Lucia’s GDP fell by 4.3% in 2010 as a result of Hurricane Tomas in the Caribbean.
“We understand the importance of limiting the increase in global temperature to a maximum of 1.5 degrees. The cost of inaction or insufficient action would be impossible to bear. Saint Lucia estimates a 12% loss in its GDP by 2025, or 25% by 2050. By 2100, the GDP could contract by half if we fail to take action”, stated the Caribbean minister, who described his country’s adaptation strategies and action plans for the agriculture sector.
Minister Valderrama underscored the need to change production methods to reduce carbon emissions. However, he warned that the transition process must be fair. “Those who are accountable for these emissions must contribute more and support developing countries, where the consequences of climate change are disastrous, increasing poverty and inequality, and affecting productivity”.
“We are willing to collaborate as long as we are provided with the necessary resources. That way, farmers will not need to destroy forests, which sequester carbon”, he added.
Oliveira Soares explained the actions that Brazil has carried out in recent decades to develop low-carbon agricultural systems. “At present, we are a major sustainable food producer for the entire world, based on science, technologies and innovation. Between 2010 and 2020, we set out to expand low-carbon systems to 35 million hectares, through the implementation of six technologies. But we have already surpassed that goal, reaching 52 million hectares”, he noted.
The Brazilian Undersecretary explained that his country is committed to accelerating the decarbonization of agriculture in Brazil and in the Americas as a whole, in an effort to advance towards carbon neutrality by 2050, and, in turn, foster food and climate security.
The Secretary of Agriculture of Mexico remarked that it is the responsibility of governments to provide agricultural producers with access to innovation and knowledge through public policies, programs and actions, in order to overcome the challenges of climate change and, in turn, make agriculture more productive and sustainable.
Villalobos Arámbula pointed out that the challenge at hand involves transforming agriculture without affecting productive capacity. “We must aim to increase production on the same surface area, but using fewer natural resources: water and soil nutrients. Good agricultural practices must be shared with all countries so that we can gradually transition from an agriculture that is highly dependent on agrochemical fertilizers to one that is much more sustainable”.
On the other hand, Otero noted that COP26 will be a very important milestone for the world and for the Americas in particular.
The Director General of IICA underscored the importance of the joint position that the hemisphere presented at the Food Systems Summit. In this regard, he considered that coordinated, cohesive participation by the Americas at COP26 is crucial to achieve global objectives in the fight against climate change and to ensure that the stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will not put food production at risk.
“The agriculture sector must assume certain responsibilities and actions without neglecting other very relevant goals. Adaptation and mitigation are two sides of the same coin: although adaptation is undoubtedly the sector’s top priority, mitigation involves limiting impacts. Therefore, we have a need to adapt more and better to what is already occurring”, added Otero.
“At the end of the day”, he concluded, “we all know that agriculture is part of the solution and together we will move forward faster, more effectively and better. At present, and under the current circumstances, this is more than an opportunity—it is our responsibility with respect to a global issue that will impact the future of our region”.
|About IICAIICA is the specialized agency for agriculture in the Inter-American system, with a mission to encourage, promote and support its 34 Member States in their efforts to achieve agricultural development and rural well-being through international technical cooperation of excellence.|
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