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Agriculture and climate change: A dangerous synergy

  • Published at 04:29 pm June 26th, 2020
Climate Tribune _June 2020_Agriculture and climate change
Photo: Pixabay

The underlying interesting question for each field is to understand the common point of interaction between climate and agriculture commodities production to develop a coherent regulation in both fields

Agriculture is one of those hybrid activities that suffer greatly from the impacts of climate change but also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions through its various practices and crop production. However, it’s a vital sector for our food security and presents also many mitigation opportunities with the advancement of crop production technologies.

There is no doubt that science is playing a major role in monitoring and combating climate change, however other instruments are equally important to successful climate change impact management such as law, control instruments or market-based tools, the latest being often used in agriculture. 

Likewise, climate change law is still in its formative years, agricultural law is a relatively new legal field of development that appeared in recent years with concern overproduction, food security and consumer well being. As such it’s a law that governs the whole food supply chain, which means issues affecting farming such as use and regulation of fertilizer, pesticides, land use, patents for new seeds but also marketing and sales of the products. 

However, the focus remains the agricultural production which can be defined as the best use of available resources to grow crops in the most efficient ways. Thus, focus on growing plants and raising livestock, it is bound to meet the question of climate change impact and climate change law, from both adaptation and mitigation approaches. 

Therefore, the underlying interesting question for each field is to understand the common point of interaction between climate and agriculture commodities production to develop a coherent regulation in both fields. 

It is indeed essential to understand how climate impacts; changing rainfall patterns, weather patterns, emerging patterns for pest behaviour, weather borne diseases, droughts effect on soil quality and the capacity of growing crops to adapt to those drastic new environmental conditions. 

More than ever, food security is bound to the future risk that climate change poses and an appropriate legal response will be necessary, alongside technology development, to ensure food for today and tomorrow. 

Indeed, food security relies on four pillars: the first three one considers the availability of food, access to available food (from an economic point of view) and third one access to nutritious food (quality of consumed food for the overall health of a person).

The overarching pillar allowing those three other pillars of food security to exist and develop is linked to sustainability: in other words, our capacity to still produce agriculture commodities and the pressing question of knowing how much food we will need and understanding if we will be able to respond to this need within the new planetary conditions. 

Thus, climate impacts threaten the sustainability of the foundation of our food security system by affecting our ability to continue agricultural activities. The decline in global and local food supplies will affect the livelihood of many and put the most vulnerable again at greater risk of malnutrition. 

Understanding and being able to manage the risk that we see today and predict the future risk that climate change will bring to our food system and consumption patterns should be at the heart of current science and legal agricultural research and development. Indeed, reducing the uncertainty that climate change poses to crop production by improving access to climate services, information, innovation and understanding farmers decision-making when it comes to their crop care will be important for a successful adaptation and mitigation in the near foreseeable future.

Anne-Laure Pilat has a background in public and European environmental law and is currently working in Bangladesh on issues related to climate and agriculture.

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