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Ajay Vashee

Ajay Vashee reflects on the outcomes of Copenhagen (IFAP)
Ajay Vashee reflects on the outcomes of Copenhagen

Moving on from Copenhagen

Ajay Vashee is a farmer in Zambia and President of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP).

On my return to Zambia from the Copenhagen climate change summit, I have to say that I can't help feeling somewhat disappointed. There has been a significant build-up to Copenhagen and we have been working towards this event since the climate talks in Bali in December 2007. At the end of all these negotiations, we have no binding agreement; neither do we have a financial mechanism for supporting the developing world in dealing with the challenges posed by climate change.

On the positive side, we have some semblance of agreement which should help progress discussions leading up to the next meeting in Mexico scheduled at the end of 2010. The World Trade talks in the Doha round have been characterised by a spiral of disagreements. At least the Copenhagen Climate Accord is more positive - there has been some agreement achieved and it provides a way to move forward. We cannot fail; it is vitally important that the negotiations next year continue to be productive.

Agriculture on the agenda

Over these last two years, IFAP has worked hard to highlight agriculture and to get it included on the agenda for the summit because we believe there is a strong link between food production and climate change. We know that climate change will significantly impact on the world's poorest farmers and on the security of our food supply. We have to find ways to help our farmers adapt and to provide incentives for them to adopt more carbon-efficient farming practices.

One of the highlights from Copenhagen, however, has been the success of the agriculture-related side events. And perhaps for the first time, those from the forestry and agriculture sectors have found common priorities for action and published a Joint Statement - "Beyond Copenhagen: Agriculture and Forestry Are Part of the Solution". This statement brought together outcomes of closely-related events, including the Agriculture and Rural Development Day held at the University of Copenhagen College of Life Sciences. For this day alone, IFAP helped to bring together over 350 national representatives, farmers, government officials and academics to consider the impact of climate change on agriculture.

Through this Joint Statement, we are united in agreeing that food security is critical and must be addressed in an integrated fashion by climate negotiators. We are particularly anxious for them to agree on the establishment of an agricultural work programme under the UNFCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA). Without this decision to establish a work programme on agriculture, farmers will not be provided with the right tools to be able to address the climate change challenges they face.

Giving farmers a voice

The launch of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases was another very positive outcome for the farming community in Copenhagen. This alliance brings together more than 20 signatory countries including the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and India. It aims to help reduce the emissions related to agricultural production and to increase agriculture's potential for soil carbon sequestration, thereby contributing to climate change mitigation. In the alliance's declaration, each country recognises the need for farmers' organisations to be involved in this initiative, which represents a good opportunity for IFAP to collaborate more closely with both governments and the scientific community.

IFAP represents over 600 million farmers - almost a third of all farmers worldwide. Some of our farmers may not be aware of the intricacies of the climate change negotiations, but many are aware of the process and will be disappointed at the outcome. IFAP has over 60 years of evidence-based policy and advocacy, which gives us a solid track record for negotiating on behalf of farmers, for providing them with a voice. But farmers need to have access to better information; they need to be included in the process and for their voices to be heard.

Next steps

We have some very strong, mature civil society organisations and they should also be given a greater role in the negotiating process. Some efforts have been made prior to these talks but these groups provide a direct link to the grass-roots and it is important that their opinions are considered, for them to have a place at the table.

Looking forward there is still much to achieve, a lot for us to do. We will keep working but we must not lose the momentum of the build-up to the summit and we should not get bogged down in frustration and disappointment at the outcome. Some important steps have been taken, but we need to bring these efforts into a binding international framework. We have the building blocks; we need to remain actively engaged and to bring more partners into the process.

Date published: January 2010


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