One big step for the planet, five vital steps for the hungry


Today, on Earth Day, world leaders gathered in New York to take the next critical step in tackling climate change and ending hunger.

With the signing of the Paris Agreement by over 170 countries on the first day it is open, the ray of hope for people in poverty shines a bit brighter. The Paris Agreement establishes a system that – with ambition and urgency – gives people living on the edge of crisis confidence that climate impacts will not push them over the edge.

The most recent World Bank Report, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Poverty on Climate Change, flags that without urgent action to build adaptive capacity and to make development efforts climate resilient, as many as 100 million more people could fall into poverty as a result of climate change by 2030 – the deadline for meeting the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The success of the SDGs depends equally on the commitments in the Paris Agreement to build resilience, on the one hand, and, on the other, to keep global temperature increase to 1.5°C. The climate agreement is a key piece in the SDG puzzle, particularly as it relates to SDG 2 to end hunger and malnutrition. And in the Paris Agreement, countries firmly recognize that protecting and promoting food security is a priority.

Food security is a priority of the first magnitude for small-scale food producers living in poverty: farmers, fishers, pastoralists, and laborers whose livelihoods, and the wellbeing of their families, depend on their ability to produce, sell, access, and buy adequate nutritious food.

Success in the face of poverty, hunger, and climate change demands a new way of looking at food systems. The International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) 2016 Global Food Policy Report lays out one new way for the post-Paris and SDG era. IFPRI calls for food systems to be efficient, inclusive, climate-smart, sustainable, nutrition- and health-driven, and business-friendly.

These principles or characteristics echo CARE’s call for food and agriculture systems to be SuPER: Sustainable (socially and economically as well as environmentally), Productive and profitable (including to support well-nourished, productive people), Equitable, and Resilient. These characteristics are what ensure that systems will deliver for the small-scale food producers who are most at risk in the face of increasing climate impacts.

The signing of the Paris Agreement is but the next step – not the final step – in tackling the climate crisis, in achieving SuPER food systems. When UN climate negotiations continue, countries have the opportunity to advance efforts not only to end the climate crisis but to bring us all closer to a world with zero hunger.

CARE and WWF offer five critical steps countries can take to tackle the twin challenge of poverty eradication and climate change and to protect food security. In a new report, Twin Tracks: Developing Sustainably and Equitably in a Carbon-Constrained World, CARE and WWF recommend that governments:

• commit to transitioning to more sustainable, equitable, productive, and resilient agriculture;
• ensure the social and environmental integrity of all agriculture-related initiatives;
• develop social and environmental safeguards for mitigation action related to land use;
• continue efforts to deepen understanding of the climate change-food security-agriculture nexus, including how climate change impacts all aspects of food security; and
• lay out a clear and predictable roadmap for the annual USD 100 billion promised by developed countries by 2020, and for post-2020 climate finance, including public finance goals for adaptation.

By Tonya Rawe, Senior Advisor for Policy and Research, Food and Nutrition Security, CARE USA