IPCC climate report draws urgency to food systems transformation

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The IPCC Sixth Assessment Synthesis Report, released this week, heightens the urgency and importance of CGIAR’s work to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis.

The Synthesis Report is based on the work of hundreds of leading scientists from around the world. It synthesizes the key findings of the six IPCC reports released over the past five years, which constitute the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report, and together provide a comprehensive analysis of research on climate change. The new report emphasizes the losses and damages the world is already experiencing due to climate change, and highlights the disproportionate impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations such as low-income communities, Indigenous peoples, and smallholder farmers. It also points out widespread and substantial impacts to water availability and food production, including agriculture, livestock, and fisheries and aquaculture – which are projected to become greater with each amount of further warming.

“Food, land, and water systems are at the forefront of the climate crisis, and transformative changes are urgently needed to reduce emissions, increase resilience, and ensure food security for all,” said CGIAR Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Impact Area Platform Director, Aditi Mukherji, a member of the Core Writing Team of the latest report, and a Coordinating Lead Author of the 2022 IPCC Report on Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.

“Climate change has increased risks to global food security— slowing down rates of productivity, and even reducing nutritive content,” said Mukherji. “Extreme events like floods and droughts are increasing in frequency and severity and will further impact harvests. The most affected are small holder farmers in the Global South. Science and innovation, such as that produced by CGIAR, is critical to provide the solutions.”

But while food, land, and water systems are the nexus of climate change impacts, they are also a nexus of solutions, both in mitigation – reducing emissions, and adaptation – responding and building resilience and reducing inequity in a world facing increasing climate challenges. The report highlights examples of food system-based adaptation measures such as cultivar improvements, on-farm water management and storage, soil moisture conservation, irrigation, agroforestry and agroecology.

Mukherji says, “While climate change has reduced food security, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report shows that there are a number of adaptation options that can be effective in reducing its impacts. Those include more climate resilient crops, better water management and storage, irrigation, and farm and landscape level diversification. CGIAR scientists are working closely with farmers throughout the Global South to implement these adaptation measures and documenting their effectiveness.

But with the world rapidly approaching global warming of 1.5C, and projections for climate change under current international commitments reaching 2.7 degrees by 2100, the latest IPCC report makes it clear that current funding for climate mitigation, adaptation, and in particular food systems is grossly inadequate.

“If we don’t step up climate finance for food systems, more people will go hungry,” says Mukherji. “Climate finance overall is inadequate for both mitigation and adaptation. But of particular concern is the funding of adaptation for at risk agrifood systems. In 2020, only 1.7% of climate finance went to smallholder farmers who are experiencing the worst impacts of climate change. We are now seeing an increase in undernourishment, which has been linked to decreasing development funding, COVID, and climate change.”

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Header photo by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)


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