Investments critical in saving, transforming food system amid threats – Pres Ali tells FAO

…says pledges at COP26 inadequate to tackle climate adaptation

Low-lying and Small Island Developing States have been placed in limbo in balancing resources for agricultural production while managing climate adaptation.
President Dr Irfaan Ali on Monday delivered his address at the World Food Forum, where he stressed that pledges made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) remain inadequate to finance adaptation, signalling the need for greater investments.

President Irfaan Ali

Ali stood among eight world leaders and over 12 industry experts addressing the Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum which was organised by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The Head of State explained that Small Island Developing States and low-lying coastal states face peculiar and inherent challenges to their food security, owing to their remoteness from larger markets, susceptibility to external shocks, narrow market base, fragile ecosystems and overall vulnerabilities to climate risks.
Climate-related risks can be devastating, ranging from flooding, overtopping of the sea defences, drought, erosion and natural disasters. Rising sea levels contribute to the overtopping of sea defences and the intrusion of saltwater into farmlands. Additionally, extreme weather events disrupt food systems and agricultural crops.
Consequently, Ali pointed out that climate financing is essential in setting the foundation for climate-resilient agricultural sectors in small island developing and low-lying coastal states.
“Critical resources often needed to support production often have to be diverted towards climate adaptation. In the face of these challenges, financing for food security therefore cannot be delinked from climate financing. Investment in climate financing rebounds to the benefit of the agricultural sector.”
“Without climate adaptation, the agricultural sectors of low-lying coastal states will be continuously prone to climate risks. At COP26, certain pledges were made to boost adaptation financing but as I have alluded, the level of financing promised by the developed countries will be inadequate to close the adaptation gap,” the President vocalised.

Flooded farmlands on Guyana’s coast during previous high tides

At COP26, Ali told world leaders that immediate action is needed to ensure the pledge of US$100 billion per annum, made one decade ago, to support climate action is met. He warned that dishonouring these pledges was a recipe for disaster.
According to the Guyanese President, a lack of climate financing will challenge these countries in attracting investment for agricultural production. Presently, an increase in climate financing by at least 590 per cent is needed.
“Adaptation finance remains far below the scale necessary to respond to existing and future climate change… The public sector continues to provide almost all of adaptation financing with adaptation increasingly being prioritised in development financing. Yet, adaptation finance represents just 14 per cent of total public finance,” he highlighted.
In 2019 and 2020, debt dominated the climate finance landscape. The majority of climate finance, at 61 per cent, was raised through debt. Equity investments was 33 per cent of total climate finance.
“For states and particularly for Caricom, the trend is of particular concern given the debt situation that many face and that have been compounded by COVID-19, global inflation, rising fuel prices and the current Russia-Ukraine war that is crowding out climate finance related issues.”
Investment is critical to the transformation of food systems and it is needed at all stages of the food system, from adaptation, research and development, production, cultivation, food processing, marketing, distribution and trade.
“Investment can help states to reduce their vulnerabilities and to diversify production. It is needed to expand and modernise agriculture and foster climate smart innovations and climate resilient agriculture. Investment is needed to transition production higher up the value chain through food processing. Investment is needed in developing human resources, particularly in making agriculture more attractive to young people.”
Credit was given to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nation’s Hand-in-Hand (HIH) Initiative which supports the implementation of nationally-led programmes to accelerate agrifood systems transformations by eliminating poverty, ending hunger and malnutrition, and reducing inequalities.