COP28: time to take stock

Event 23 November 2023
COP28 will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from 30 November to 12 December 2023. The time has come to take stock of the results of the Paris Agreements. According to a UN warning, the world is set for a 3°C increase in temperatures by the end of the century if current policies are maintained. Is there still time to reverse the trend, as the IPCC was hoping when it released its sixth synthesis report in March? CIRAD considers that urgent action is needed to transform farming and food systems if we are to achieve carbon neutrality.
© R. Belmin
© R. Belmin

© R. Belmin

CIRAD will be at COP28, as it has been every year since COP21. Six of its scientists will be moderating or participating in side events, to hammer home a series of messages on the key role of soils, forests, crop and livestock farming systems and the One Health approach in achieving greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets. While nobody can deny that farming and food systems must be transformed, they will also be significantly affected by the effects of climate change, as will health systems. Adaptation and mitigation must therefore go hand-in-hand.

This is the first time that a Climate COP will be looking at the topic of health. Health, climate and biodiversity are intrinsically linked, and should therefore be addressed simultaneously by means of a One Health approach.

Thierry Lefrançois
specialist in "One Health" issues, CIRAD General Management

>> The series of side events begins on Sunday 3 December with an event organized by the PREZODE initiative in the France Pavilion, on the topic of health and adaptation to climate change.

Follow Pavilion France events live

According to the latest IPCC report on climate change and land, the AFOLU sector (agriculture, forestry and other land uses) is behind 23% of net total manmade GHG emissions, which are mainly split between direct GHG emissions attributable to agricultural production (12%) and deforestation (9%). Including emissions relating to pre- and post-production activities within the global food system, estimates range between 20 and 37% of net total manmade GHG emissions.

Slashing emissions from agricultural activities by 75%

However, farming could also be a source of solutions. The land sector is a crucial lever for developing GHG mitigation strategies, by capturing 29% of total GHG emissions. Agricultural activities as a whole also have very high potential to cut their own emissions (75%) by adopting the right practices, notably by reducing synthetic input use and introducing agroecological practices, and have substantial capacity to store carbon in both the soil and biomass (plants, soil organisms, etc).

Fostering soil health to capture carbon

According to scientists, the concept of soil health is crucial to transforming food systems in order to achieve the net zero CO2 emissions target by 2050. 

>> Researchers will be presenting their results on soils, soil health and carbon storage at several side events in the UNCCD (United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification), France and Francophonie Pavilions on 5, 8 and 10 December.

Detailed programme

Betting on agroforestry and on preserving existing forest cover

"Several recent studies have highlighted the key role of forests and agroforests in capturing carbon" says Alain Billand, forestry expert with CIRAD General management. Researchers are calling for incentive measures targeted at farmers to speed up the adoption of agroforestry.

Combined with massive efforts to reduce GHG emissions, leaving forests to regenerate naturally could capture an additional 226 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon or thereabouts.

"The growing interest in restoring tropical forests means greater possibilities of promoting management of secondary and degraded tropical forests, agroforestry systems and mixed plantations including local species, for instance to produce wood. Community forestry could make a significant contribution to increasing the area of productive forests, while promoting the conservation of vast swathes of ancient forests within community forestry concessions."

Livestock production can also be carbon-neutral!

In the livestock sector, increased global demand for meat has played a significant part in pushing up the sector's GHG emissions worldwide. The livestock sector accounts for 14.5% of manmade GHG emissions, and while 70% of that figure is down to ruminants (due to methane emissions), grass-fed rearing systems are "only" responsible for 20% of total emissions from livestock production but have substantial mitigation potential thanks to carbon storage in the soil.

In the Sahel, for instance, pastoralism, which makes optimum use of an extreme environment, serves to store carbon: some "40 ± 6 kilogrammes of carbon equivalent per hectare, per year", as the CASSECS project has demonstrated. The project's researchers are calling for a new perspective on livestock farming in the Sahel.

The international community has to give itself the means to quantify the true environmental impact of agropastoral livestock systems, in order to draft more just GHG reduction policies.

Paulo Salgado and Mohamed Habibou Assouma
agricultural and animal production scientists, CIRAD

>> Researchers will be presenting their results on the carbon balances of pastoral and agropastoral livestock systems in the Sahel at a side event on 9 December in the CILSS Pavilion. 

Detailed programme

Stepping up investment to support the transformation of the agricultural sector

In addition to simplifying carbon accounting, when assessing the agricultural and food sector, it is vital that we take account of the contribution it makes to alleviating poverty and improving food security.

Marie Hrabanski
political sociology researcher, CIRAD

Family farmers produce a third of the world's food but receive just 0.3% of global climate funding, according to a recent Climate Focus study.  

Less than  2% of climate funding currently goes to the agricultural sector. This is not enough to support its transformation​​​​.

Vincent Blanfort
specialist in carbon balances and Climate Change Officer, CIRAD
CIRAD and the Climate COPs
CIRAD has been actively following talks within the framework of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change since COP21, which saw the signing of the Paris Agreement. It is a member of the "Climate" interministerial group for food security and attends the Climate COPs in its capacity as observer. It is also regularly called upon to re-read documents such as the IPCC report and to make direct contributions to the Koronivia working group, in association with its partners in both North and South. The talks held by the Koronivia Joint Work Action on agriculture were concluded at COP27 (see our summing up). A further four-year programme of talks is now under way with a view to ensuring that climate action is taken as regards both agriculture and food security.

Find out more

LES GRANDS DOSSIERS DE DIPLOMATIE No. 76 – Special issue on the geopolitics of climate change (in French)

  • Les sols sous les effets du changement climatique : perspectives géopolitiques, options d’atténuation et d’adaptation
    By Julien Demenois, "4 per 1000: soils for food security and climate" correspondent, CIRAD
  • Les dynamiques de la déforestation mondiale
    By Alain Karsenty, economist, CIRAD
  • L’action climatique pour l’agriculture et la sécurité alimentaire : des avancées malgré les tensions Nord-Sud
    By Marie Hrabanski, political sociology researcher, CIRAD