Katharina Diehl vom Team KlimAgrar über ihren Besuch bei der Bonner UN-Klimazwischenkonferenz im Juni 2019
KlimAgrar follows up on climate-smart innovations in agriculture on the national level in Germany. This is an interesting endeavour in itself, but it became an affair of the heart during the intersessional climate change conference in Bonn from June 17th to June 27th, to which I was invited by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). The invitation came with the allowance to join open sessions and side events. I used this privilege to check on recent developments in and around the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – and to benchmark our project.
Agriculture is gaining traction in the UNFCCC. Hardly any other sector is more affected by climate change than agriculture, and the need for adaptation is being felt by farmers around the world. But agriculture and land use also account for emissions, and policy makers as well as scientists hope that more efficient practices in crop and livestock management can contribute to carbon dioxide and methane emission reduction. Deep historical changes were always reflected by changes in land use and agriculture. If we understand our activities to reduce climate change impacts as a joint global project, this will not succeed without the commitment of farmers to engage in the discussion.
1. Farmers – Where is your representation?
In 2018, the UN Climate Change Conference in Katowice (COP24) agreed to address issues related to agriculture within the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). This process includes a roadmap leading through workshops and expert meetings. In Bonn, two workshops were held, one on adaptation and one on improved soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility. The relevance of the topics was in no way contested and many examples clearly highlighted the expertise available across the whole range from agroecological farming to input-efficient, emission-reduced crop and livestock management. Questions remain in regard to (financial) frameworks, accountability, and tools and methods for tracking adaptative activities, soil carbon sequestration or reductions in organic depletion of soils. The discussion focused in particular on soil organic carbon. Is it technically feasible? Where is it useful? And last but not least, what are the potentials and opportunities to a global monitoring approach?
2. What kind of innovations could be game changers?
Monitoring approaches could in fact be the game changers in the process. Most activities – as much as they may positively contribute – are knowledge-intensive, scattered and site-specific. Without clearly measurable indicators and reliable data analysis, it will be difficult to establish applicable criteria at a global level. Opportunities for the agriculture sector include irrigation systems and precision farming linked to renewable energy products (especially solar appliances) for small-scale farmers. Information and knowledge, further funding and research is needed to scale up solutions. In combination with sensors that inform the farmer on changes in soil and plant every minute, these new technologies will be needed to address the problems shown by current research, for example on changes in temperature and rainfall patterns in crop-producing regions.
3. What is the contribution of German agriculture-related research?
The projects supported by KlimAgrar pursue incremental innovations in terms of efficiency and reduced input. Every single one of them addresses a specific gap in knowledge and technology and, if successful, will pave the way for farmers to adopt more efficient, low-emission technologies in the field thereby supporting an overall improved capacity to adapt, mitigate and emerge more resilient. I learnt in Bonn that the formulation of countries commitments to the UN Paris Agreement requires reliable existing technologies. I also learnt that innovations are needed to accelerate our efforts towards transformational change and climate adaptation. Can we say that in KlimAgrar we bring these two needs together?