Climate and Ag – Impacts and Opportunities

Lead Organization:

Meridian Institute




As the Paris Agreement calls out, it is imperative to avoid catastrophic increases in global temperatures, and to create an environment in which agricultural production can be adapt the climate perturbations that are already inevitable. It is widely agreed that agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change, as well as the sector that is most hurt by it. But the estimates for agriculture’s role in greenhouse gas production vary widely. Thus, while agricultural innovations must be part of the solution set that addresses climate change, there is little consensus on the roles that agriculture can play in climate change mitigation. The science and policy instruments that support agricultural change are likewise hampered by the lack of a shared narrative on agriculture and climate change. While the body of literature on the relationships between climate change and agriculture is significant, few reports focus on impacts and opportunities for climate change and food systems and how this can be channeled into national commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions (as reflected in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions or INDCs). There is insufficient clarity on the ways in which agricultural science and policy can help to inform and align the financial flows that are needed to reduce impacts and make opportunities actionable. Due to regional variation of agriculture in a changing climate, most reports on the links between agriculture and greenhouse gas production focus on a sub-sector, specific region, or country. There have also been varying degrees of controversy around certain climate change and agriculture terminology; climate-smart agriculture is one such contested concept. In addition to being limited in focus, scale, and terminology, existing reports have lacked robust dissemination and communication channels to ensure key messages reach intended audiences. Few resources have accounted for the unique nature and multiple roles of the food system. While many efforts have contributed to progress in bringing agricultural production into the climate spotlight, very few reports include food systems in a holistic way. Limiting global temperature increase requires that countries harness the mitigation potential of agriculture and food systems. Building on prior individual studies, there is an urgent need to determine the collective implications of the existing body of work, which could prompt enhanced national level ambitions, commitments, contributions, and policy, and to catalyze more effective financial flows in order to make opportunities actionable. The Meridian Institute, founded in 1997, has a long history of tackling complex issues through collaborative process design and mediation, particularly in the area of agriculture and food systems. With that experience and expertise, the organization has unique potential to implement this timely and important effort to address the missing meta-narrative around climate, food, and agricultural systems.

Grant Aims:

This two-year effort is systematically building a globally recognized, trusted metanarrative about the nexus between climate change and food systems and using it to stimulate coordinated research, policy, and action to implement the changes needed to avoid catastrophic change.There is mounting scientific evidence that we cannot achieve the global goal of limiting the global temperature increase to 2ºC without harnessing the mitigation potential of agriculture and food systems, from production and consumption. Currently, farmers, ranchers, and consumers around the world are already seeing the detrimental impacts of climate change on food production, food prices, and food security. There are a myriad of factors—politics, global trade, lack of trusted information, national and food security, food sovereignty, historical responsibility—that excluded agriculture and food systems from the Paris Agreement, save for a few references to safeguarding food production and security.This project is aligned with the CCRP’s objective of supporting collaborative research to support sustainable agriculture and food systems in its systemic, multi-sector approach. It is bringing  together disparate existing research efforts and initiatives in order to collaboratively develop a global meta-narrative around climate change and food systems that inform and are informed by CCRP research efforts.Meridian seeks to contribute significantly to:An emerging global consensus about the critical potential for agriculture and food systems in both mitigating and adapting to climate change, including greater certainty of agriculture’s mitigation potential;More widespread inclusion of agriculture and food systems in how INDCs are implemented;Increased recognition of the need for a global accounting framework for agriculture; andGreater global momentum to have some explicit involvement of and engagement with the agriculture and food sectors at COP22.