The Political Economy of Climate Change

The Climate Change and Agriculture Theme of FAC was launched amidst an increasing focus on, and pledges of funding for, activities to address climate change in the agricultural sector. Through a combination of presentations at major policy events, comparative case studies, and the production of policy briefs, working papers and journal articles targeted at different audiences, the theme has sought to stimulate debate around policy processes on climate change and agriculture at different scales.

The Theme’s vision is to help broaden these policy debates to include alternative adaptation and mitigation pathways for the agricultural sector, and ultimately, for these to be reflected in government plans and donor priorities.

In the year 2010-2011, members of FAC’s Climate Change and Agriculture Theme engaged at the international level through side events at the Global Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change in The Hague and at COP-16 in Cancun, as well as nationally through policy roundtables with senior policymakers, academics and NGO representatives in Ethiopia and Kenya. All gained considerable interest, including media and online reports by IRIN, the Zimbabwean Standard and others.

In addition, FAC Climate Change researchers Lars Otto Naess, Blessings Chinsinga, Emily Polack, Paul Guthiga and Andy Newsham contributed to an IDS Bulletin on the Political Economy of Climate Change in May 2011. This has received considerable interest and praise from Simon Maxwell, Executive Chair of the Climate & Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), among others.

The concept of “Climate Smart Agriculture”, first introduced in 2009, has gained increased popularity over the past year as unifying a wide range of actors and interests working to achieve so-called “triple wins? of adaptation, mitigation and food security/development. However, the concept hides a wide range of actors with different starting points and policy goals. There is uncertainty and growing concerns over how the increased focus on climate change and agriculture will translate into developments on the ground, as highlighted recently by Bruce Campbell, Program Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS): “[T]he sheer variety of perspectives on the best ways to adapt agriculture to climate change and reduce emissions while boosting carbon storage in the soil has resulted in a confusing mix of messages, which are leading to inaction or, worse still, the wrong actions”.

Broadening the debate.

COP-17 to the Climate Convention in Durban, South Africa, in late 2011 and the run-up to RIO+20 in 2012 provide key policy moments for broadening the debate on agriculture and climate change beyond technical and financial mechanisms and measures. We aim to influence the debate through two principal avenues: (1) country case studies to map policy narratives, actors and networks, funding streams and political processes, including comparative studies across countries in SSA and (2) using the research findings to organise policy roundtables and debates, and presenting findings at key venues, notably COP-17. Forthcoming FAC Policy Briefs (on Agriculture in the Climate Negotiations, CAADP and Climate Change), FAC Working Papers (examining policy processes on climate change and agriculture in Africa), as well as outputs from country case studies and policy round-tables (the first planned for Kenya in November 2011) will form the basis for a coherent FAC ‘Climate Change message’ which will provide FAC with a platform from which to engage in a dialogue with influential policy actors and inform the debate on climate change and agriculture.