Food security fears over Ukraine
BRINK OF DISASTER:
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to widespread concerns over global food supplies, as Carbon Brief rounded up in the previous edition of Cropped. The chief economist of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) told the Guardian
that the conflict “could tip the global food system into disaster”. The Guardian also noted that lower-income countries are “bearing the brunt” of high food prices, which were already elevated due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other supply chain issues. Extreme weather has also been playing a role in the uncertainty worldwide. Reuters
reported a few weeks ago that China’s winter wheat crop “could be the ‘worst in history’,” according to the country’s agriculture minister. And an ongoing drought in Kenya makes the addition of the Russia-Ukraine war “very concerning” for food security in that country, Gerald Butts
, the vice-chairman of Eurasia Group
, wrote on Twitter
. The Guardian
reported in a separate piece that the World Food Programme
was “racing to deliver emergency food supplies” to besieged Ukrainian cities.
An extraordinary meeting of the G7 agricultural ministers on 11 March saw the countries sign a “joint declaration” in which they committed to “support food supply in Ukraine”, EurActiv
reported. International organisations, such as the FAO, were also represented at the meeting. Qu Dongyu
, the FAO’s director-general, presented
(pdf) to the meeting on food prices and global food markets; he showed preliminary results from models showing the potential impacts of the conflict on food prices and nutrition in both the short- and medium-term. The moderate scenario showed the world’s undernourished population growing by more than 7.5 million people over the course of the year.
The food security fears have led to calls within the EU to rethink the bloc’s commitment to sustainable food systems, Politico
wrote. The site noted that the conflict “poses no immediate grave threat to food supplies for EU citizens”, but that there is concern over the future accessibility of some types of animal feed. EurActiv
reported that French president Emmanuel Macron
told a press conference that his country will “prioritis[e] productivity over sustainable farming goals” in light of the conflict. Macron also “call[ed] for a review of the Farm to Fork objectives”.
PROPOSALS PUSHED BACK:
The EU executive is “split” on the matter of “suspending” the goals of the Green Deal, EurActiv
wrote in a separate piece. EU agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski
“wants to hold off” on the policy’s implementation, while Frans Timmermans
, the vice president of the European Commission, has stated that doing so will not help food production. In an open letter
(pdf) signed by dozens of national and international organisations, civil society groups called for an “agroecological transition” for farmers and noted that “watering down the Farm to Fork strategy and its policies will maintain Europe’s dependence on non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels”. EurActiv
also reported that the Commission “has pushed back” its discussion of the legislative proposals targeting chemical pesticide use and nature restoration, originally scheduled for 23 March.
Biodiversity talks finally resume
NATURE IN SPOTLIGHT
: Negotiators from 164 countries have arrived in Geneva, Switzerland, for a two-week UN summit aimed at reversing biodiversity loss, Reuters
reported. In the first in-person meeting of its kind since the start of the Covid pandemic, countries will try to agree on the details of the “post-2020 global biodiversity framework” – a deal referred to by many as a “Paris Agreement for nature”. It comes after countries collectively failed
to meet any of their 2020 biodiversity targets. The framework is due to be formally adopted at COP15, a major UN biodiversity summit to be held in Kunming, China later this year. COP15 has been repeatedly pushed back since the pandemic and is currently scheduled to take place in August, according to New Scientist
ROLE FOR CLIMATE
: A growing body of research
shows that climate change and biodiversity loss are intrinsically linked and often share common solutions. The first draft
of the global biodiversity framework includes a target that calls on countries to “minimise the impact of climate change on biodiversity” by 2030. It adds that countries must “contribute to mitigation and adaptation through ecosystem-based approaches, contributing at least 10bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year to global mitigation efforts”. Several of the other 21 “action targets for 2030” have consequences for efforts to tackle climate change, such as the flagship demand for countries to protect 30% of land and sea by the end of the decade and to reduce harmful subsidies, including for fossil fuels.
: The start of the talks signalled that negotiations risk “being overshadowed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”, Reuters reported, with many major economies using their opening statements to condemn Russia. At the end of the summit’s first week on 20 March, the Earth Negotiations Bulletin
concluded that a “successful outcome seems distant”. It reported that the target calling for countries to minimise climate change’s impact on biodiversity sparked “lengthy discussions” on Saturday night, with “divergent views on whether nature-based solutions
or ecosystem-based approaches is the appropriate term”. It added: “The inclusion of numerical targets also generated disagreement.” An expert in UN climate and biodiversity negotiations told Carbon Brief that the Geneva talks have produced “very limited progress so far”. They added: “If you imagine the post-2020 biodiversity framework as several books, what they’re doing in Geneva is just the preamble. They’ve not even started the first chapter.” Carbon Brief’s special correspondent Daisy Dunne
will be on-the-ground reporting from the talks from today until their conclusion next week.
Great Barrier Reef bleaching underway
“Official monitoring” is underway off the coast of Queensland to map the extent and severity of coral bleaching across the Great Barrier Reef, the Guardian
reported. With water temperatures running warmer than usual, Prof Terry Hughes
of James Cook University
says that “a sixth mass bleaching event is now unfolding, and that it was not mild or local”. While corals “can recover from mild bleaching”, more severe heat stress can kill the corals entirely, the Guardian noted. In the Conversation
, two other coral reef scientists at James Cook detailed the causes and effects of coral bleaching events, including how reef fishes and other species can – or cannot – adapt. They noted that the conditions on the reef are “so extreme” as to be hard to replicate in a lab, adding: “Scientists are at our own tipping points, too”.
NET-ZERO ‘NOT ENOUGH’:
Meanwhile, a briefing
released this week by the Australian Climate Council
, a non-government climate change communications organisation, detailed the links between climate change, marine heatwaves and coral bleaching. The briefing states that “governments must commit to immediate, deep and sustained emissions reductions this decade” in order to “best protect” the reef, stating that the current target of net-zero emissions by 2050 “is not enough”. The report also noted that if warming continues unabated, the reef could see annual bleaching events by the mid-2040s. Writing about the report, Reuters
noted that marine heatwaves in Australia are “affecting fisheries, damaging species and hurting tourism”. The site added that the release of the briefing coincided with the arrival of UNESCO
experts in Australia to assess the government’s Reef 2050 Plan
. The UNESCO report, “expected by early May”, will make a recommendation on “on whether the site should be listed as ‘in danger’” – an “embarrassment” that the conservative government “averted” in 2015, Reuters wrote.
Earlier this month, the Guardian
also reported that the Australian government had “pushed to soften” the wording around the risks that climate change poses to the Great Barrier Reef in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment report on the impacts of climate change
. Australian officials suggested that the report “should say the reef was ‘not yet in crisis’”, the newspaper wrote. The move was opposed by France and “several” Caribbean countries, and the “original wording was ultimately retained” in the final report. The attempt “prompted accusations” that the Australian government was being “unscientific” and “trying to play down the damage” that climate change has already caused in order to avoid taking action on emissions.