COP28: 44% drop in climate finance to agrifood systems in Asia, concern for farmers

Dubai: The amount of climate finance flowing to agrifood systems is strikingly low and continues to diminish compared to global climate finance flows, a new report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned on Sunday.

However, the drop in finance is a matter of concern for smallholder farmers.

The decline is happening at a time when more financing is urgently needed to help reach the goals of the Paris Agreement and support the implementation of the United Arab Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action signed by over 150 world leaders at the underway United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, says the FAO. Climate finance refers to local, national or transnational financing — drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing — that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions to address climate change.

Between 2000 and 2021, climate-related development financial support for agrifood systems amounted to $183 billion, with more than half of the funding delivered after 2016.

However, in 2021, contributions plummeted to $19 billion, a 12 per cent decline compared to 2020.

The most affected region was Asia, with a sharp drop of 44 per cent compared to 2020.

Africa and Europe experienced a mild increase of four per cent, while Latin America and the Caribbean saw a modest increment of six per cent.

Although there has been an overall global increasing trend in absolute terms since 2000, doubling from $9 billion allocated in 2010 to $19 billion in 2021, the growth rate of climate-related development finance towards agrifood systems falls significantly short of the average growth rate of three to four times observed in climate-related development finance overall.

Smallholder farmers are on the frontlines of climate change, especially in the developing nations, agricultural advocates told IANS.

They say the nations now need to reach out to the farmers with resources that can strengthen their operations and build resilience as they are exposed to a wide range of risks arising from weather variability, natural hazards, and pests and diseases.

Delhi-based Climate Trends compiles evidence to showcase the extent of India’s agricultural vulnerability amidst changing summer monsoon season. Citing scientific evidence and public data, Climate Trends says the summer monsoon rainfall has declined by six per cent since the 1950s.

In the central region of India, where about 60 per cent of agriculture is rainfed, summer monsoon rains have declined by 10 per cent.

While the monsoon rains have weakened, the intensity of the rains has increased, triggering dangerous floods.

“The message is loud and clear: we must turn around from the ecological disaster we are headed towards. Let us work together for the sake of all life on the planet,” Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru told IANS at COP28 where he was for ‘save soil’ campaign.

Agriculture expert Meena Pokhrel of Nepal Agricultural Cooperative Central Federation Ltd told IANS that in the fields every seed matters with smallholder farmers echo a plea for resilience.

“Strengthening our foundations with resources isn’t just a need; it’s a collective investment in safeguarding our harvests, ensuring sustenance, and weathering the storms of change.”

Stating that resources are definitely needed to build resilience, Vandana Thottoli, Business development advisor with Dutch Fund for Climate and Development at SNV, said not all climate-smart agriculture practices need to be resource heavy.

“Mulching, using bio slurry, composting and other activities can still be done with limited resources.

“Resources will always be limited, and allocation might not always be equitable in developing nations, due to a myriad of reasons. So using resources efficiently and wisely needs to be stressed.”

Neslon Kipkosgey, 30-year-old farmer from Uganda, said: “Yes, developing nations can help us in strengthening our operations and build our resilience in the face of climate change. For example, I require improved seed varieties that are resilient to extreme weather conditions.”

According to the FAO report, amid worsening climate impacts and slow progress on reducing greenhouse gases, embracing sustainable agrifood systems practices — covering production, distribution and consumption — can help nations adapt, build resilience, and cut greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring food security and protecting biodiversity.

“The unique potential of agrifood systems to tackle the climate crisis can only be realized by scaling up investments in agrifood systems solutions and actions. The diminishing trends of both agrifood and adaptation investments is a missed opportunity to equip farmers around the world with the knowledge, the much-needed technologies and innovation to enhance their resilience and adapt to climate change impacts,” said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.

Agriculture is one of the sectors with the highest adaptation finance needs for implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (or national climate plans), but climate finance for adaptation is also on a downward trend.

The FAO report mentions that according to a recent analysis from the Climate Policy Initiative, only four per cent of global climate finance went to agrifood systems between 2019 and 2020.

To transform agrifood systems and achieve not only climate action but all the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), nations would need to mobilise about $680 billion a year until 2030.

The report highlights the increasing popularity of blended finance, which combines public and private funds to encourage climate-smart agricultural projects with significant financial, environmental, and social benefits.

It emphasizes that effectively addressing climate change in agrifood systems requires a comprehensive and customized financing approach that aligns with the specific needs and priorities of different regions and sectors.

To accomplish this, the authors stress the importance of understanding the most suitable financial instruments and the appropriate allocation of climate finance to different sectors, a crucial step in pursuing global climate objectives while also responding to local needs and contexts.

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