|Durum wheat Source: Wheat Foods Council|
Potentially catastrophic impacts on food
production from slow-onset climate changes are expected to increasingly hit the
developing world in the future and action is needed now to prepare for those
anticipated impacts, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
warned Thursday in
a submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Meanwhile, A small tax on international airline tickets could raise US$10bn a
year to help people to adapt to the impacts of climate change, say economists at
International Institute for Environment and Development.
"Currently the world is focused on dealing with shorter-term climate impacts
caused mainly by extreme weather events," said Alexander Müller, FAO
Assistant-Director General for Natural Resources.
"This is absolutely necessary," he continued. "But 'slow-onset'
impacts are expected to bring deeper changes that challenge the ecosystem
services needed for agriculture, with potentially disastrous impacts on food
security during the period from 2050 to 2100. Coping with long-term changes
after the fact doesn't make much sense. We must already today support
agriculture in the developing world to become more resilient," he said.
"While these changes occur gradually and take time to manifest themselves, we
can't simply ignore them," said Müller, adding: "We need to move beyond
our usual tendency to take a short-term perspective and instead invest in the
In its submission, FAO outlines steps that governments could consider in climate
change negotiations to ensure that food security is not threatened.
Food insecurity as an indicator of vulnerability to climate change:
FAO recommends that food security be used as an indicator of
vulnerability to climate change.
Food production systems, and the ecosystems they depend on, are highly sensitive
to climate variability and climate change. Changes in temperature, precipitation
and related outbreaks of pest and diseases can reduce production. Poor people in
countries that depend on food imports are particularly vulnerable to such
"If we're looking to assess vulnerability to climate change, it makes very
good sense to look at food security as one important indicator," said
Managing the long-term risks of climate change is important:
FAO suggests that within the global adaptation architecture greater space be
given to the risks linked to slow-onset impacts of climate change, particularly
food security risks. These have so far received little attention within the
climate change agenda.
One key measure highlighted in the FAO submission is the need to develop staple
food varieties that are better adapted to expected future climatic conditions.
Plant genetic material stored in gene banks should be screened with future
requirements in mind. Additional plant genetic resources -- including those from
wild relatives of food crops - must be collected and studied because of the risk
that they may disappear.
Climate-adapted crops - - for example varieties of major cereals that are
resistant to heat, drought, submergence and salty water - - can be bred. FAO
stressed however that this should be done in ways that respect breeders' and
farmers' rights, in accordance with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic
Food security consequences of climate change mitigation efforts:
FAO suggests that countries consider food security as a socio-economic
safeguard for mitigation measures. Meeting increasing demand for fuel, food and
carbon storage will challenge national policy-makers to capture synergies and
manage trade-offs between competing land-uses. Already biofuel production (a
mitigation response measure) has been associated with spiking food prices in
2007-2008. Also, there are signs that the success of REDD+ (an initiative to
reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and increase the
carbon stock in forests) will depend on how successfullythe
linkages with agriculture are managed.
Tiny flight tax could raise billions to
protect people from climate change
A small tax on international airline
tickets could raise US$10bn a year to help people to adapt to the impacts of
climate change, say economists at the International Institute for Environment
Tom Birch and Muyeye Chambwera make the case for such a tax in
a briefing paper, as the latest round of intergovernmental negotiations on
how to tackle climate change get under way in Bangkok, Thailand.
Southern Thailand is in the grip of major floods that have affected close to a
million people. This is exactly the kind of impact that scientists say countries
and communities will need to adapt to as climate change takes hold.
Birch and Chambwera say that a tax on airline tickets would be an ideal way to
generate funds to help people to adapt to such impacts, as it would be fair,
fast, predictable, cheap to implement and would not harm the aviation industry
or tourism-dependent developing nations.
“The beauty of such a tax is that it would follow the’ polluter pays’
principle and transfer resources from those who cause the problem to those who
need to adapt to its effects,” says Muyeye Chambwera. “Passengers would
barely notice a small tax of just $6 per economy-class ticket and $62 for
business class tickets but this would generate billions of dollars.”
Between now and 2050 the costs of adapting to climate change could reach $100bn
per year, according to some estimates.
At the United Nations negotiations, which run from 3-8 April, 193 governments
will discuss how to generate this money. The UN climate change convention
already has a fund – the Adaptation Fund – but so far it has little money to
"The Adaptation Fund can only be credible if it is supplied with ongoing
financing streams of sufficient quantity and quality,” says Tom Birch.
“Financing is currently both insufficient and irregular
because it is dependent on national political and economic cycles.
“A tax on international airline tickets is an innovative solution to this
political barrier and would mobilise a significant and stable source of finance.
It should be implemented as soon as possible."