The Danger and Opportunities of 1.5°C for Smallholder Agriculture

The decision to limit global warming to 1.5°C is vital for small scale family agriculture, which is especially climate-vulnerable. However, as the UNEP emissions gap report highlights, there is still too much distance between the Paris Agreement targets and Parties’ NDC commitments. This gap reveals a clear imperative for countries to reaffirm and set an ambitious course towards attaining this goal during COP22, a sentiment echoed across platforms here this week.

Maintaining and increasing ambition is crucial, but ECO reminds Parties that they should also consider how these commitments will be met. In order to meet the long-term goal, IPCC scenarios estimate that up to a billion hectares of land need to be dedicated to negative emissions efforts such as bioenergy—a strategy that can threaten land rights, trapping farmers between a warming world and restricted land access. If done wrong, climate action in the land sector could have massive negative impacts on food security, adaptive capacities, development potential, gender equality and the livelihoods of communities dependent on small-scale agriculture, as well as on biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, with an increased risk of land-grabbing and rises in food prices.

To ensure the 1.5°C target is reached in the best way, Parties need to be proactive in reducing their emissions before looking at offsets. Strong, comprehensive social and environmental safeguards that ensure human rights must be developed. Parties must prioritise emission reductions before 2020, instead of delaying on the assumption that they can compensate later with negative emissions. Moreover, solutions are at hand, in the energy, transport, and forest sectors, and within food systems (production and distribution models, diets, food waste, agroforestry/livestock combinations).

In Monday’s Opening Plenary Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa stated that COP22 will herald a “new era of international climate action”. ECO urges this COP to work on ensuring that the legacy of 1.5°C is a movement towards a more just, equitable, and environmentally sound world – one in which land rights, local food sovereignty, and security are reaffirmed and emboldened, and not a reversal of the (hard won) development gains of the 21st century.

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