Skip to main content

By: Osée Kamga

The diversity and complexity of the agricultural sector — the numerous climates, landscapes, legislations, and stakeholders it involves — can create barriers to global discussions. As a result, the subject has long been underrepresented in global climate negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change re-energized the discussion about agriculture in relation to climate change by recognizing “the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, and the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change”. The emerging focus on agricultural issues in the UNFCCC process is the result of sustained scientific and technical inputs throughout negotiations from groups such as the African Group of Negotiators Expert Support (AGNES), an organization supported by IDRC.

AGNES’ contribution to climate negotiations and policy implementation

AGNES was created in 2015 to provide scientific expertise and evidence-based information to African climate negotiators. AGNES also seeks to facilitate the exchange of ideas between experts and negotiators in an international setting. In this environment, scientific evidence is a major tool that AGNES uses to inform the unified common African position on matters related to climate change.

Since its formation, AGNES has assisted the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) to develop and defend their position using science-based evidence on agricultural and gender issues. The AGN is a leadership collective of experts from all African member states that represent the continent in international negotiations. Africa’s participation in these discussions and negotiations is imperative because the continent largely depends on agriculture for employment, food, and exports, therefore climate change impacts such as increased food insecurity, water scarcity, reduced crop yield, and reduced livestock productivity must be mitigated.  

So far, AGNES has played an important role in providing empirical evidence to inform negotiations on issues related to agriculture and gender. For instance, AGNES supported African negotiators (under the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technical Assistance) in preparing their technical submission to UNFCCC on several topics, such as the development of early warning systems and contingency plans in relation to extreme weather events, as well as risk and vulnerability assessments of agricultural systems to various climate change scenarios, including but not limited to pests and diseases.

AGNES also played a critical role in negotiations during the twenty-third Conference of the Parties (COP23) in November 2017 in Bonn, Germany. Their work led to the adoption of two initiatives: 

  • The Gender Action Plan, which acknowledges the particular effects of climate change on women, the plan proposed a gender-responsive policy in all aspects of climate change adaptation and mitigation activities — the first ever adopted under the UNFCCC. 

  • The Koronivia joint work on agriculture, a decision that calls on the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice and the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to jointly address issues related to agriculture through workshops, expert meetings, and other methods. The decision calls on these subsidiary bodies to effectively link policy, science, and implementation. 

A strategic partnership

One of IDRC’s priorities is to support solutions that help vulnerable people and communities adapt to the effects of climate change. IDRC supports AGNES in developing strategies that help African countries implement the Nationally Determined Contributions, which set objectives for climate policy and define conditions for implementing climate adaptation and mitigation actions. This partnership with AGNES enables African scientists to take part in international discussions about climate change by offering valuable contributions to develop an evidence-based and unified African position that informs UNFCCC outcomes and regional and national policies. This partnership acknowledges that climate change is a global problem that cannot be effectively tackled without meaningful contribution from the Global South.

In 2019, IDRC committed to strengthen the participation of francophone African countries in climate change negotiations and the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The Centre is supporting preparatory meetings for the francophone sub-group of AGNES and commissioning research by francophone scientists to ensure that specific regional considerations feed into the development of common negotiating positions.  

IDRC is also investing in women’s leadership in climate change by supporting training that develops the skills of francophone women negotiators from Africa to influence international climate discussions. The Centre partnered with Environment and Climate Change Canada, France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, and the Institut de la Francophonie pour le développement durable to host a second workshop under the Canada-France Climate and Environment Partnership. The 2019 workshop in Kigali, Rwanda, welcomed 27 African climate negotiators who received specialized training to strengthen their skills to influence international climate discussions at COP25 in Madrid, Spain. 

AGNES’ long-term strategy

In 2016, AGNES started working on a long-term strategy with the goal of institutionalizing its activities in all five sub-regions of Africa. Since then, the group has gained support from several international organizations. AGNES is expected to expand its expertise beyond gender and agriculture into other areas such as adaptation, finance, technology development and transfer, and global stocktaking. To facilitate these transformations, IDRC is providing support until 2023.

AGNES will continue to help the AGN develop an evidence-based and unified African position for global negotiations and support AU/NEPAD, regional economic communities, and African Union member states to prepare and implement evidence-based climate-responsive policies at the regional and national levels on agriculture and gender. Currently, AGNES’ focus is on supporting African governments to create an enabling environment and tools for the effective implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions and for the capacity building of African countries to access climate finance from various sources such as the Green Climate Fund.  

“Strategic engagement by IDRC-supported scientists has expanded their influence, leadership, and recognition by African negotiators," notes Edith Ofwona Adera, senior program specialist in IDRC’s Climate Change program. The group is working with African policy and research institutions such as the African Centre for Technology Studies and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa to ensure the development of national and sub-national policies to address the challenges that climate change poses for the continent. With growing support and increasing expertise, AGNES will continue to play an essential supporting role in addressing these challenges, as African policymakers navigate the complex world of climate change diplomacy.

Top image: Sven Torfinn / IDRC