COP26 big moment for Canada to act on climate crisis

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
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Approximately 768 million people experienced hunger in 2020, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia. That’s an increase of 118 million people from 2019—or more than three times the population of Canada.

At a time when the world is facing two urgent crises—pandemic and planetary—the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference is a prime opportunity for Canada to show its seriousness in tackling both emergencies.

At COP26, to be held in Glasgow, Scotland, from Oct. 31 to Nov. 12, Canada should demonstrate its support for more climate resilient food systems. Building resilient food systems will allow small-scale food producers to cope with shocks, adapt to change and transform their livelihoods.

The ongoing COVID pandemic has been a shock that has swept around the world, crippling health systems, driving up hunger, and shutting down economic systems. Climate change, similarly, is a global problem, harming biodiversity, gender equality, health, nutrition, food security, and economic growth.

The global pandemic has exacerbated the effects of climate change on levels of food insecurity, driving it to devastating levels not seen in years. Approximately 768 million people experienced hunger in 2020, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia. That’s an increase of 118 million people from 2019—or more than three times the population of Canada.

One of the most important challenges of our time is how to provide healthy and nutritious diets for all in a way that sustains and strengthens our natural environment.

At the G7 Summit in June 2021, we were pleased to see Canada commit to doubling its international climate finance, to $5.3 billion over the next five years. The prime minister also indicated increased support for adaptation, as well as nature and nature-based solutions.

Ensuring the new investments in climate finance are additional to Canada’s existing aid budget is essential, so that other crises don’t get short changed. Based on available data from the last five years, 28 per cent of Canada’s climate finance is directed toward adaptation and 72 per cent toward mitigation.

Adaptation finance should make up at least 50 per cent of the total to address impacts already felt today alongside cutting emissions.

Climate-resilient food systems can do both. They are a necessary way to support adaptation as well as mitigation, including through nature-based approaches.

Food producers are important allies in cultivating nature-based solutions. Conservation agriculture, agroforestry, and other agriculture nature-based solutions can increase agricultural production, fight climate change, and enhance nature and biodiversity.

In East Africa, where climate change has produced frequent droughts and stressed fragile ecosystems, small-scale food producers connected to a Canadian Foodgrains Bank conservation agriculture program have seen transformation across their food systems. Conservation agriculture uses minimal tillage, permanent soil cover (mulch or cover crops), and diversified crop production.

The Foodgrains Bank Scaling-Up Conservation Agriculture in East Africa program, from 2015-2020, took a systems approach to addressing these challenges. The program, which was funded in part by the Canadian government, worked through multi-stakeholder partnerships, introduced climate resilient agricultural practices that built on Indigenous good agronomy, addressed gender inequality, and helped build an enabling institutional environment, including with government and private sector.

The result was transformation in individual, household, and community food security—and a more resilient food system. More than 51,000 households improved their food security status. They improved storage and bargaining power to sell their crops at higher prices. They were much better prepared to fight climate change and conserve biodiversity. Women’s status in the household and community soared, family dynamics improved, and women found they saved precious time formerly spent weeding and preparing land. Government agencies got on board.

This is just one example of a food-systems approach that goes beyond simply focusing on agricultural production to taking a more contextualized, cross-sectoral approach to complex and interconnected challenges, such as the impacts of climate change and health pandemics.

Together with Germany, Canada is co-leading a process to ensure developed countries stand by their commitments and deliver on the US$100-billion climate finance goal through 2025.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took an important step in June towards delivering on Canada’s fair share when he announced Canada’s increased commitment on climate finance for developing countries. As Canada heads to COP26, let’s turn that important announcement into real change on the ground.

Implementation of Canada’s new climate finance investment in resilient food systems will support food producers in meeting complex challenges—including climate, health, economic resilience—and support Canada in meeting its key development goals.

Carol Thiessen and Mueni Mutinda are policy advisers at Canadian Foodgrains Bank. Originally published by The Hill Times.

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