Impressions from COP24
Taking Climate Action for Zero Hunger
Back in 2017, Pramisha Thapaliya (Nepal) and Anna Gomes (USA) met at the Youth Ag Summit as agvocates who were passionate about reaching Zero Hunger through climate action. One year on, they were reunited at the UN’s flagship climate conference: COP24 in Katowice, Poland. ‘Intense, fruitful, hectic and inspiring’—here’s what they had to say about their time at COP24.
Pramisha: Agriculture and climate change are inextricably connected, particularly since last year’s COP23 saw the declaration of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). Since then, I’ve been lucky to follow negotiations as a member of YOUNGO, the youth constituency to the UN Climate Change Processes—sitting in on Koronivia negotiations, attending side events and sharing our perspectives with negotiators from around the world. In the last year, YOUNGO has established a strong working relationship with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and we found ourselves invited as panelists to all their side events in Katowice, which is a really praiseworthy example of youth inclusion in global policymaking. Before the conference kicked off, a three-day youth conference was held at the University of Silesia, where we developed policy positions on agriculture – raising several important issues like how Koronivia can be implemented on the ground, capacity building and financing of smallholder farmers and the inclusion of food security in the Paris Rulebook. The KJWA outcome of COP24 can be found here.
Although it’s rarely possible to meet ground-level farmers from developing countries in these types of conferences, we met representatives of the Farmers' Constituency of UNFCCC to share their reality on taking climate action in agriculture. In a side event co-organized by the FAO, International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Food Programme—entitled 'We can still end hunger by 2030 if we take ambitious climate action'—I took part in an incredibly diverse panel including high-level representatives, entrepreneurs and youth. As a young woman from the Global South, I focused on smallholder adaptation, highlighting the need to recognize local and indigenous knowledge and help farmers understand how they can best adapt through systems such as agroforestry and agroecology. Similarly, I also had the opportunity to participate in an interactive Food Systems Dialogue with people committed to making food systems more sustainable and nutritious, meet David Nabarro of 4SD (a recipient of the 2018 World Food Prize!) and share our vision for the future of food and agriculture with Dutch Vice-Minister of Agriculture Marjolijn Sonnema. I was particularly inspired by The Netherlands’ leadership in sustainable food and agriculture systems.
Embarking upon a career in agriculture made me realize how significant the link between climate change and food security is. The 2017 Youth Ag Summit gave me further technical insights on innovation and dynamics in this sector, whereas UN Climate Change negotiations have made me politically and technically aware of the challenges the world is facing. I can see closely the negotiations political leaders are undertaking to create solutions to feed future generations. And in observing all these, I am hopeful that the biggest sustainable transition is on the horizon.
Anna: Reflecting on my week in Poland, I left optimistic, not at the current state of the Paris Climate Agreement – which sees us heading toward 3 degrees of warming, instead of the necessary 1.5 degrees—but at the passion, wisdom, and dedication displayed by our generation at a global level. One of my favorite days of COP24 was when agricultural soil health made the spotlight of global climate negotiations. During the end of the second week, the 4per1000 Initiative, originally started during COP21 by the French Agricultural Ministry, hosted a conference. This global initiative began to magnify the critical role of soil carbon sequestration for meeting the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. Originally started to “offset” annual human emissions, the Initiative has launched an exciting new chapter of soil health research and carbon sequestration efforts.
Being a soil science fanatic myself, and still working on a scientific research project from my bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Davis, I submitted a poster to present at the COP24 4per1000 Initiative Day. Our research is focused on analyzing the soil hydrologic impacts of winter cover cropping and conservation tillage in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Both practices are known to reduce soil disturbance and add organic matter to the soil, these practices are also known to support soil carbon sequestration and therefore contribute to the soil health discussion. Connecting this research to the larger picture of mitigation of anthropogenic climate change, I plan to focus my master’s thesis research at Lund University on overall greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, aiming for increased food security within the planetary boundaries. Similarly, I have made a ground base for potential future partnerships between the CGIAR program CCAFS, and the YOUNGO Agriculture working group, allowing knowledge and solutions to flow two ways between experts and scientists in training.
We’ve been developing theory in academics, building on our agvocacy in conferences and now, it’s time for us to take concrete action to feed a hungry planet—only together can we make it happen! Here’s to moving forward towards an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable future for all life on Planet Earth. It’s our future, but also our present, so we’d better get to work. We’re continuing to develop our passion for these global challenges and would love to discuss in further detail with anyone who is interested—so do get in touch!