Agriculture at Doha

The United Nations Conference on Climate Change opened in Doha, Qatar on Monday, with representatives from almost 200 states gathering for the two week event to agree on commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Ahead of the conference, NGOs and research institutions highlighted the pivotal role agriculture plays in international efforts to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The need to cut emissions from agriculture was confirmed by a recent CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) study, which revealed that food systems contribute up to 29% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with agricultural production accounting for 80% of these emissions. Bruce Campbell, Head of the CGIAR Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security research programme expressed concern that “agriculture is still considered a sideshow in the climate arena and a decision has been lacking over several years of UN climate negotiations”. Shefali Sharma from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) stressed that “if we truly want to address agriculture emissions, let’s start by setting targets for reducing nitrous oxides and methane from industrial farms and transitioning to agroecological practices”.

Observers have expressed concerns over the lack of commitment by governments to make real progress in achieving a new global climate deal: “Most governments continue to support and advance the very policies that are driving the climate crisis, from dirty fossil fuel extraction of oil, gas and coal, to carbon trading, agrofuels and large-scale industrial agriculture”, said Sarah-Jayne Clifton from Friends of the Earth International.

Agriculture will also be discussed at various side events at Doha, including a panel on Wednesday that will highlight the pitfalls of the concept of ‘climate-smart’ agriculture, and propose alternative approaches to tackling the climate and agriculture crises, while ensuring the right to food.