10/11/17

“Agriculture is about People” – Climate Champion’s Speech at Opening of Agriculture Day

High-Level Climate Champion’s Speech at the Opening of Agriculture Day.

Bula vinaka – guten morgen – and a very good morning to you all.

As the High-Level Champion for global climate action and on behalf of the Fijian COP Presidency, I warmly welcome you to Agriculture Action Day.

We are gathered at an important moment in the international response to climate change. We have just been informed that 2017 was one of the hottest years on record. We are seeing more severe and frequent natural disasters and extreme weather events. From the devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean, to the droughts in sub-Saharan Africa, and the flooding in South Asia – we are already feeling the impacts of climate change across the globe. And this is just the beginning.

As the Minister for Agriculture in a small vulnerable island state, I am acutely aware of the challenges brought about climate change to our agriculture sector. Climate change is already affecting our agriculture systems, our food production, our local diet, our local livelihoods, our national economy and our way of life.

Sea-level rise is driving coastal erosion and washing away arable land and backyard home gardens. Our coastal communities are forced to plant their daily food supply a distance from their home, placing extra burden to our people, and especially our women who tend the crops. We are experiencing more intense floods causing large-scale loss to our local economy and depriving our local farmers and rural communities of their main source of income.

Seasonal and climatic variability are causing changes in the timing of life cycles, in migration patterns, in breeding, and in flowering.

This is creating havoc among our farmers who rely on traditional cropping calendars to guide their planting and harvesting seasons. It’s gotten to the point that these traditional calendars are no longer relevant.

We are working with our farming communities to respond. We are supporting them to identify the climate risks they face, and adopt new varieties of crops that are more resilient to drought, salinity, flooding and extreme temperatures. I am confident that our farming communities can adapt if given the right tools and skills and resources.

However, what we really need to do is to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and contain climate global temperature rise in order to prevent further damaging impacts. But this is not the course we are currently on.

This points to an inescapable conclusion: the world simply must do more to address climate change and focus its efforts on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over the pre-industrial age.

But we have cause for optimism. In my time as High-Level Champion, I have seen promising trends everywhere I look.

One of these trends brings us here today: there is growing recognition that agriculture and land use can – and must – be a central part of the solution to climate change.

Your presence in this room is a testament to this fact.

 

We will only achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement, and the 2030 Agenda, if we scale up climate action in agriculture and land use.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Marrakech Partnership was launched in recognition that national governments alone cannot achieve the Paris goals. Success will depend on concerted action from all levels of government, the private sector and civil society.

This is certainly true of climate action in agriculture. The key to transforming the way we manage land, grow food and feed our world lies with the world’s farmers, rural communities, the private sector. This has been a key focus during my time as High-Level Champion of the Marrakech Partnership.

The prominence of agriculture and land use under the Marrakech Partnership is mirrored by a strong focus on these sectors at COP23. Numerous side events are highlighting the transformational potential of these sectors. The high-level roundtables on climate action and SDG2 will shine a light on the need for climate action to achieve a world with zero hunger. And the interesting events planned here today will allow us to share lessons and insights on a range of important issues.

We will learn more about the potential to mitigate climate change through livestock and soils. We will hear about concrete experiences from the field on how data and technologies can be used to support farmers with climate change adaptation.

We will learn about the challenges of water scarcity in agriculture, and the urgent need to reduce food loss and waste throughout our food systems.

I look forward to these discussions, and hope to draw on these insights for the benefit of our agriculture sector in Fiji and the Pacific and to also guide my work as champion to emphasise the urgency to scale up climate action in this very important sector.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to close with a reminder of why we are gathered here. This is not only about the climate. More so than any other sector, when we talk about agriculture, we are talking about people – about farming communities trying to earn a living, and families trying to feed their children.

Let us not lose sight of this.

Let us unite for climate action – further, faster – together

Vinaka vaka levu – danke schoen – thank you.