William R. Sutton
Lead Agricultural Economist, The World Bank
The world’s food system is not fit-for-purpose under the realities of the climate crisis. It must meet the growing demand for safe, affordable and nutritious diets while reducing greenhouse gases and adapting to a changing climate.
The impacts of the climate crisis are being felt worldwide, resulting in a decline in yields, livelihoods and natural resources including soil, air and water. Agriculture itself is also a major part of the climate crisis. Along with forestry and land use, agriculture produces between 19-29% of global greenhouse emissions.
So, how do we achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, particularly the goal of ending hunger and malnutrition, in the face of such unprecedented challenges? Many countries are turning to climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as a solution.
The triple win of CSA
CSA is an integrated approach to managing landscapes – cropland, livestock, forests and fisheries – by systematically taking the climate crisis into account in the planning and development of sustainable food systems.
CSA is distinct from conventional agriculture in several ways. First, it has an explicit focus on addressing the climate crisis. Second, it considers the synergies and trade-offs that exist between productivity, adaptation and mitigation. Finally, it helps farmers access new funding opportunities to close the deficit in investment.
It produces triple-win outcomes by sustainably producing more and better food, reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience to shocks. CSA can also remove or reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The World Bank’s new Climate Change Action Plan helps countries fully integrate their climate and development goals, maximising the impact of climate finance.
Increasing support for climate action
In Malawi, the World Bank is helping enhance farmers’ resilience to droughts and improve soil health. In Uzbekistan, we are helping the country shift away from cotton and wheat monoculture toward a farming system that is more resilient to climate shocks, like horticulture. Across West Africa, we are also helping develop climate-smart varieties of staple crops such as rice, plantains and maize.
Making a difference worldwide
The World Bank’s new Climate Change Action Plan helps countries fully integrate their climate and development goals, maximising the impact of climate finance. It focuses on transformational investments in key systems, including agriculture and food, that are the greatest contributors to emissions. They face the greatest challenges from the climate crisis through increasing adaption and mitigation.
In 2020, 59% of World Bank financing in agriculture already targets these measures. This is critical if we are to build a climate-smart food system that sustainably delivers improved livelihoods and safe, affordable and nutritious diets for all.