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COP26: African adaptation funding pledges rise as climate change takes a toll on agriculture

03 November 2021 Keiron Greenhalgh

Climate change is hurting African farmers, sowing the seeds of widespread starvation, poverty, internal conflict, and mass migration, members of a panel at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow said 3 November, making pledges over the past couple of days to inhibit the impact of drought, floods, and rising sea levels all the more welcome.

"African agriculture is on its knees," Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Raychelle Omamo said during the Atlantic Council panel on innovation and climate adaptation, with no rain, not enough seeds or fertilizer, and limited access to markets.

COP26 is critical to advancing agriculture in Africa, she said. Many of the advances possible are technological improvements, including in soil management, she added.

Some of that could come through the use of mobile phones, as they are cheap, accessible, and ease access to innovation, said Omamo. The use of mobile phones can liberate the millions of women that drive Africa forward, especially when it comes to agriculture, she said. "COP26 must remember the African woman," she added.

Bill Gates pledges $315 million

As COP26 was taking place, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $315 million to the CGIAR global agriculture research partnership to help smallholder farmers adapt to the surge of climate threats, especially in Africa.

Some 500 million smallholder farmers and livestock keepers in low-income countries—the majority of whom are women—facing a rising tide of climate threats that impede their ability to support their families and provide food for billions of consumers, the foundation said in announcing the pledge 2 November.

The funds will help develop climate-smart innovations such stress-tolerant crop varieties, climate forecasting services, and new strategies for restoring degrading lands to improve productivity, it said.

With the latest pledge, the foundation's commitment to CGIAR now totals more than $1 billion, it said, while adding that more donations from the great and the good gathered in Glasgow were required.

"For communities across Africa, the impact of climate change is being felt right now. From cyclones in Southern Africa to locusts in East Africa, changing weather patterns are already having catastrophic impacts for communities living across the continent, impacting lives and jobs," UK Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said as the UK doubled its international climate finance backing to £11.6 billion over five years, which will be balanced between spending on adaptation and mitigation.

The Gates and COP26's host country weren't the only ones to step up to the plate in Glasgow. CGIAR said a coalition of backers pledged a total of $575 million on 2 November. Combined with $256 million pledged at the Global Citizen Live event, and other commitments from Sweden and Belgium, CGIAR now has secured $863 million in 2021, it said, adding that there was potential for significant additional investments to emerge later this week at COP26.

The effect of climate change on crops, fish, and livestock is a key factor behind a steady rise in hunger that is eroding years of progress, CGIAR said. The trajectory of the climate threat is particularly daunting in sub-Saharan Africa, it said, where climate change could cost African countries up to 15% of their GDP by 2030.

"Adaptation in agriculture is about pursuing a greener pathway," said Claudia Sadoff, CGIAR managing director, research delivery and impact. "That includes providing technologies that help farmers grow more food with less water and revitalizing degraded landscapes through holistic strategies that support both food production and ecosystem services."

African leaders in Glasgow

The pledges were made as African leaders gathered in Glasgow to seek support from the Global North on financial backing for investments in adaptation.

Speaking during the African Adaptation Acceleration Summit at COP26, Félix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and chairperson of the African Union, praised the $6 billion in financial commitments for climate adaptation African countries have put forward in their Nationally Determined Contributions and urged the rest of the world to continue to step up and contribute the additional $27 billion a year the continent requires.

Tshisekedi, also an advocate for support for Africa's rainforests through higher carbon offset prices, said, "Adaptation finance flowing to Africa is grossly insufficient compared to the enormous resources needed for it to adapt to climate change. That is why African countries, working with the Global Center on Adaptation and the African Development Bank and other partners, have launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program. The program is at the heart of Africa's climate change needs. It is Africa-owned and Africa-led."

The Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program requires $12.5 billion by 2025 in addition to the $12.5 billion already committed by the African Development Bank. The funds will be spent on climate-proofing, creating new jobs, modernizing key economic sectors, and integrating climate adaptation investments at the national level, said the Global Center on Adaptation, which coordinated the summit.

Tshisekedi's homeland is one of 14 countries that lie on the equator, which include Colombia, Ecuador, Sao Tome and Principe, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, the Maldives, Indonesia, and Kiribati.

The other is agricultural powerhouse and South America's most populous country—Brazil.

Brazil's GHG emissions in 2020 grew by 9.5%, while worldwide emissions dropped by almost 7% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Observatório Do Clima, a Brazilian NGO. Emissions from Brazilian agriculture, which reached 577 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent (27% of the national total) in 2020, also increased, by 2.5%—the biggest rise since 2010.

This occurred in part for a counterintuitive reason, the NGO said, the pandemic reduced beef consumption, with a reduction of almost 8% in cattle slaughter. The national herd increased by about 3 million head, which, in turn, also increased methane emissions from ruminant fermentation or cow burps, it said. The other big factor was deforestation and changes in land use, it said, which more than counteracted a reduction in the Brazilian energy sector's emissions.

Adding up the direct emissions from agriculture (27%) and indirect emissions from deforestation (46%), agribusiness accounts for almost three quarters (73%) of Brazil's GHG emissions, the NGO said. It criticized President Jair Bolsanaro and multi-national corporations for the increase in emissions.

Asia, Europe, and Oceania appear to be on track to reverse forest cover losses, but Africa and South America are still losing forest area, according to a UN evaluation of the globe's afforestation and deforestation efforts and their impact on global warming.

More than 100 world leaders vowed to stop deforestation in a pledge that secured at least $22.4 billion in public and private funding 2 November. Forests cover 31% of the global land mass, or more than 4 billion hectares, according to the UN. More than 86% of the world's forests are in the 105 signatory countries to the new pledge.

The largest rainforest after the Amazon Basin, the Congo Basin, spans Cameroon, Central African Republic, the DRC, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Gabon. Three of those nations are located on the equator.

Climate change is especially difficult to battle near the equator, Gates said at the 3 November event, adding that if global warming wasn't tackled it will lead to mass hunger in Africa and other regions located at such latitudes. Adaptation and mitigation solutions must be pursued in tandem, said Gates.

But "second green revolution" is needed to deal with climate change and population growth in Africa, said Gates, and that includes improving the livestock that much of the continent's agricultural sector depends on. The first Green Revolution, also known as the Third Agricultural Revolution, is seen as the transformation of agricultural yields, many of them in Asia.

The multitude of financial commitments (See separate Net-Zero Business Daily stories here and here) at this COP26 meeting won't necessarily solve climate change, but if investments and financing increase at the same rate as has been seen since 2015's Paris Agreement then, it will fit "the size of the problem," said Gates.

Innovation

Sitting alongside Gates at the Atlantic Council event was US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, who said, "We're not where we need to be, we need to push the curve of innovation" in agriculture.

A day earlier on 2 November, the US and United Arab Emirates officially launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) alongside 31 countries and over 48 non-government partners.

And in remarks at the World Leaders Summit that kicked off COP26 on 1 November and 2 November, US President Joe Biden, announced the US intends to mobilize $1 billion in investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation by the end of 2025.

Previewed at Biden's Leaders Summit on Climate in April, AIM for Climate is focused on increasing investment and enabling greater public-private and cross-sectoral partnerships. The US Department of State said AIM for Climate has already begun to bear fruit, garnering what it called an "early harvest" of $4 billion of investment.

AIM for Climate seeks to create incentives for, and mechanisms for maximizing the impact of, new investments toward an agriculture sector that is ready to face a changing climate.

Agroecology instead?

But not everyone is a fan of this form of help from Western governments and especially Microsoft founder Gates' plans and methods, accusing the latter of concentrating power and profits in the hands of a few multinational companies and an overreliance on genetically modified crops.

The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA), which says it represents more than 200 million farmers, fishers, pastoralists, indigenous peoples, women, consumers, and others across all but five African countries, holds that agroecology is what Africa needs.

AFSA argues small-scale, ecofriendly cultivation methods using indigenous knowledge and inputs and cutting-edge science increase the variety, nutritive value, and quantity of foods produced on farms while stabilizing rural economies, promoting gender equity, and protecting biodiversity.

"We welcome investment in agriculture on our continent, but we seek it in a form that is democratic and responsive to the people at the heart of agriculture, not as a top-down force," AFSA activists Million Belay and Bridget Mugambe said in a July op-ed.

Agroecology gives farmers the kinds of innovation they need, promoting the soil-building practices that "agricultural modernization" often undermines, they said in a separate op-ed.

Posted 03 November 2021 by Keiron Greenhalgh, Senior Editor

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