Paris Climate Change Agreement Falls Short on Food Security and Fossil Fuels

Op-ed by Ahmed Hassan, who is a social activist and critic interested in Somali politics. You can find him on Twitter at @pansomalist.

1 January 2016 – As world leaders agree on an ambitious plan to the keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, they fell short to give a smidgen of hope to over 700 million hungry and two billion food-insecure people around the globe who are presumed to be climate change victims.

2015_Climate_Conference.svgThe conference of parties (COP21), which was meant to enhance the 1992 Framework Convention of the Climate Changewas attended by more than 195 states and fell short to address food security in relation to climate change.

They briefly mentioned “food production” at the preamble article (article two) but not how to increase food security sustainably, but rather increasing the adaptability of crops to foster climate resilience so the current food supply is affected.

Excluding the agricultural sector from a climate change accord is imprudent at best because the agricultural sector, and this is not limited to farming only, accounts for more than 40 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, crop yield and temperature are intertwined. It is estimated that one degree Celsius rise in temperature causes about 10 percent drop in yields.

The agreement should have considered promoting sustainable agricultural practices that can curb greenhouse gas emission while also increasing agricultural productivity.

Understanding food security

Food insecurity or hunger is not simply about a shortage of food. There are four dimensions of food security and if one of these dimensions is missing, a person is rendered as food insecure. These include, food availability, accessibility, stability and nutritional value.

In other words, the food might be available in plenty, but it is either not accessible, stable or lack nutritional value, hence you become food insecure.

Unsustainable agricultural practices, such as fossil fuel-based industrial agriculture, deforestation and land-use change that increases the earth’s albedo effect, not only contribute to food insecurity but also global warming.

The agreement fell short to promote sustainable agricultural practices such as agroecology, which involves using less chemicals and more natural techniques that will reduce emission of greenhouse gases and increase agricultural yield.

Nonetheless, FAO and other food organizations seem to be satisfied with the agreement, even if it’s not legally binding, of ‘’food production’’ in the preamble article according to Prof. Hilal Elver, UN Special Rapporteur of the Right to Food.

Why not mention fossil-fuel?

Fossil fuel is major source of greenhouse gases, and it seems that it was deliberately not mentioned in the agreement. It is counter-intuitive that we want to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C yet we don’t want to talk about the main drivers of global warming—fossil fuels.

In article VI, they put forward some mechanisms to mitigate greenhouse gas emission, but ironically, none of them says we should reduce using fossil fuel as a source of energy. Therefore, this appears that the accord was more of a political than scientific agreement.

That’s why Nicaragua’s chief climate negotiator, Paul Oquist, said in an interview with Amy Goodman, that universal responsibility is a spin when it comes to voluntary commitment to cut greenhouse gas emission and his country will not take a pledge.

Interestingly, the agreement does not even promote the use of alternative energy sources such as green energy to mitigate greenhouse gases emission.

Developing countries seems more concerned

The developing countries has submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDCs) that’s more consistent with the 2C target, which include the shifting from fossil-based energy to green energy considered to be clean and environmentally friendly, adopting climate smart agriculture and inter alia.

For instance, Kenya agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30 percent compared to business-as-usual (BAU) scenario by 2030 in line with vision 2030 development projects. Also, this is not without international support in the form of finance.

Most of the developing countries fall under this category. They cannot do their contributions without international support in form of finance, investment, technology development and transfer and capacity building.

Ironically, the Global South, though they are not major polluters, seem to be more eco-conscious than the real polluters.

By aggregating and simulating the increase in temperature after the INDCs were submitted by all parties, analysts found that it will actually passes by about one degree to the 2C target. This is not a promising result.

The Paris Agreement emphasizes volunteerism in order to curb a problem that was created by few greedy and selfish nations. Ironically, even if the rest of world is willing to help to curb this problem, these nations don’t want to lead the fight.

For instance, out of all the INDCs that were submitted, only two countries submitted INDCs that were in line with the 2C target and those two countries are not the world greatest polluters (US and China), but rather from the Global South (Morocco and Ethiopia.)

And that is why I agree with Nicaragua’s chief climate negotiator, Paul Oquist, when he says that the concept of universal responsibility and voluntary commitments simply doesn’t work.

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