Highlights and images of main proceedings for 17 November 2016



IISD Reporting Services - U.S. Center - Marrakech 2016

IISD Reporting Services, through its ENB+ meeting coverage, has provided digital coverage of selected U.S. Center events every day, during the Marrakech Climate Change Conference - November 2016.

The following side event was covered on Thursday, 17 November 2016:

Photos by IISD/ENB | Liz Rubin
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Making Agriculture Smarter, More Efficient and Resilient in a Changing Climate
Organized by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)
and the US State Department

This side event focused on three aspects of a resilient and emissions-efficient global food system. Exploring the nexus between climate science and agriculture, panelists highlighted in particular: methods to create a business case for climate-smart agriculture; data improvement, notably in climate vulnerable areas; and enabling conditions to scale up smart agriculture.

Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, USDA, moderated the event. He noted that 20 years ago agriculture did not focus on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. He highlighted challenges to mainstreaming climate change in agriculture due to different cropping, climatic and soil systems, as well as raising awareness about climate-smart agriculture practices among millions of farmers in the US and abroad. He underscored the objective of the USDA’s Building Blocks on Climate Smart Agriculture and Forestry to reduce GHG emissions by 120 million CO2 equivalents by 2025.

Gary Linden, Acting Deputy Assistant to the Administrator, USAID, explained that climate-smart agriculture is based on science-based evidence. Drawing attention to the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future initiative to overcome global hunger and improve food security and the adoption of the Global Food Security Act, he underscored the importance of mainstreaming food security, agricultural adaptation and women’s empowerment into climate action at the global level.

Kevin Rabinovitch, Chief Climate Officer, Mars, Inc., spoke from the food business perspective, saying that the reason for engagement in this agenda is science clarity regarding the negative effects of climate change on food security. He emphasized the threats of climate change for business sustainability and financial health, adding that “moral imperatives” are also a reason to act on climate and agriculture.

Josette Lewis, Associate Director, World Food Center, University of California Davis, focused on soil and water management as key actions to make agriculture smarter and emphasized the importance of educating citizens on nutrition for behavioral change.

During discussions, panelists listed key challenges to advance the agenda of smart agriculture, including: cost reduction; relationship with farmers and behavior change; farmers’ adaptation to new regulatory environments; access to new technologies; methods to scale-up smart agriculture; and engagement of small farmers in smart agriculture. Panelists recommended improving science on the climate-agricultural nexus and the relationship with the whole supply chain of food production, including small farmers. From the floor, participants inquired about action on food waste, links between animal products and climate change, and public health threats deriving from current agricultural patterns.

Panel (L-R): Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary, USDA; Gary Linden, Acting Deputy Assistant to the Administrator, USAID; Kevin Rabinovitch, Chief Climate Officer, Mars, Inc.; and Josette Lewis, Associate Director, World Food Center at the University of California, Davis

Drawing reference to the example of healthy soils leading to higher agricultural productivity, resilience and storing more GHGs due to better tillage, Robert Bonnie, Under Secretary, USDA, explained that the triple-win solution on increasing yield, resilience and minimizing GHG emissions are often congruent and reinforce each other.

Gary Linden, Acting Deputy Assistant to the Administrator, USAID, drew attention to the sensitivity of cereal crops, particularly those from rain-fed agriculture, to increasing temperatures and drought frequencies.

Josette Lewis, Associate Director, World Food Center, University of California, Davis, argues that academic research can help policymakers prioritize decision making.

Kevin Rabinovitch, Chief Climate Officer, Mars, Inc.; says “it becomes increasingly obvious that some of the climate change bullets will catch us, so we need to be prepared for those threats that we cannot combat.”

A participant listens to panelists.


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