By the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee
As greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continue to rise and the impacts of climate change become increasingly severe, the global response in terms of mitigation and adaptation is falling behind. The consequences of the climate crisis extend beyond direct effects and pose significant threats to water, energy, and food security, undermining progress towards achieving the SDGs and the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. Innovation and technology have emerged as crucial tools for countries to expedite the implementation of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and national adaptation plans (NAPs) in response to these challenges. By adopting a comprehensive and interconnected approach that addresses the water-energy-food nexus, nations can effectively tackle the climate crisis.
The 2023 Bonn Climate Change Conference provided a platform for extensive deliberation on the imperative of such an approach. As part of its ongoing five-year rolling workplan, the UNFCCC Technology Executive Committee (TEC), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), and with contributions from the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), organized a dialogue that underscored the urgent need for a systemic solution that harnesses innovation and technology to combat the climate crisis on multiple fronts.
Food security and climate: Ten key facts
- Up to 828 million people suffered from hunger every day in 2021 despite one-third of global food being wasted.
- The agricultural sector accounts for 70% of global freshwater withdrawals.
- The agri-food system contributes around one-third of global GHG emissions, but it is also a key part of the climate solution.
- The agriculture sector utilizes around 30% of total energy consumption.
- The transformation of agri-food systems is crucial for enhancing efficiency, inclusiveness, resilience, and sustainability.
- Innovation, including both technological advancements and traditional knowledge, plays a vital role in achieving this transformation.
- Small-scale producers and family farmers are critical for global food security, producing as much as 80% of the food consumed in regions such as Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
- The water-energy-food nexus is a critical area of focus for strengthening climate resilience and realizing potential co-benefits for strong mitigation and SDGs.
- Examples of successful initiatives include the Energy-Smart Food programme, which promotes renewable energy and energy efficiency in agri-food systems.
- Collaborations with different actors, from farmers to government, academia, and international organizations are key to transform agri-food systems to make them more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.
An inclusive transformation
As discussions unfolded, the dialogue featured insightful interventions from diverse perspectives, from senior UN officials to practitioners, experts, researchers, and youth and Indigenous leaders, making compelling cases for inclusive transformative change.
“As the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet, we have a responsibility to act, and to do it urgently. We need accelerated and scaled-up actions, coordinated and collective efforts, stronger partnerships and leadership, and by all actors across all sectors,” said Daniele Violetti, Senior Director, UNFCCC.
Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director, Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment, FAO, emphasized the need to address interconnected crises such as climate change, biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and conflict in a holistic manner to maximize positive outcomes and minimize trade-offs. Focusing on one issue in isolation can create problems elsewhere, he said, and recognizing the interconnectedness of these issues is crucial.
Fanni Zentai, Sustainable Water Policy Advisor, GIZ, highlighted the need for systemic change at the policy and investment planning level. She emphasized the importance of working on three levers:
- Establishing cross-border partnerships and fostering cross-ministerial working groups on the water-energy-food nexus;
- Fostering vertical communication and integration among different political levels through participatory approaches; and
- Utilizing data to showcase the added value of integrated solutions and finding more innovative business models.
“No single sector or organization can drive this transition alone. It requires business, governments, and NGOs coming together in collective action on a global scale,” she said.
Glindys Virginia Luciano, Strategic Partnerships and Network Engagement Manager, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), emphasized the advocacy of young people for innovative approaches in food and agriculture. “Accessibility to low-cost technologies and financial support is crucial for us to contribute and create a positive impact in our communities,” she said. “Transparency and fairness in data access and usage are essential, as we believe that innovations should alleviate challenges without creating further complications. We should be seen as partners, not just beneficiaries, in these conversations.”
Grace Balawag, Facilitative Working Group (FWG), Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) under the UNFCCC, encouraged participants to expand on the meaning of technology and to avoid looking at it “just from the Western worldview.” “Our indigenous knowledge systems, perfected through generations, are not only transformative solutions that the world needs, but they also teach us how we can live in harmony with nature,” she said. “By considering and learning from these solutions, we can make significant strides in our climate actions and contribute to a truly transformative change.”
Collaboration and knowledge sharing emerged as key takeaways from the event, with speakers underscoring their significance in driving climate innovation. The event also highlighted the importance of the UNFCCC regional climate weeks as forums for further discussion and action. These gatherings allow stakeholders to delve deeper into specific challenges and opportunities within their respective contexts.
What comes next?
Stig Svenningsen, TEC Chair, asserted that the work on climate technology and innovation in water-energy-food systems will remain a key focus for the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism in the coming years. He called on interested partners to join this collective endeavor. In thanking speakers and participants, Svenningsen added: “this session is not going to be a standalone activity. The discussions in this session will be followed with more exchanges and collaborations with technology stakeholders and our partners in the coming months. Such engagements would help us identify relevant technologies, innovations, and digital solutions that can strengthen adaptation planning and NDC implementation in agri-food systems, as one of key areas where countries seek rapid system-wide transformations.”
As the policy arm of the UNFCCC Technology Mechanism, the TEC will continue to foster policy exchanges among technology stakeholders, produce practice-oriented knowledge products and actionable policy recommendations, and promote practical and tailored solutions that can be replicated and expanded across regions.
Updates from the work on climate technology under the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement are available and regularly posted in the UN Climate Change Technology Linkedin Group. Join this online community today!