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Discussion Programme on Climate Change, Food Security and Trade

“Better and fuller understanding of linkages between trade, climate change and food security is urgently needed”. 
This was a key conclusion of a joint session on “Climate change, food security and trade: Challenges and opportunities” organized by South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and CUTS International. The session took place at the Civil Society Organization (CSO) Forum during UNCTAD XIII with the objective to discuss linkages between trade, climate change and food security and identify elements of holistic policy responses. It was attended by a number of developing country ambassadors, other country delegates, and representatives of international and non-governmental organizations.

Nathan Irumba, former ambassador of Uganda and Executive Director Southern and Eastern African Institute for Negotiations and Information (SEATINI), stated that climate change is a reality in Africa. Extreme weather events have adversely affected agricultural production while a large majority of population still depends on agriculture for its livelihood. Moreover, trade, contrary to classical theory, has not led to improvements in agricultural productivity.  According to him, the challenge for developing countries is to increase agricultural productivity while adapting to climate change.

According to Mark Halle, Director, Trade and Investment, and European Representative, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), issues of trade, climate change and food security were symptomatic of the need for greater global cooperation.  However, the multilateral processes and negotiations in these areas remain stalemated because of the lack of equity.  There is growing disenchantment with the existing model of economy. He felt that the green economy can address these concerns. He also emphasized that US$100 billion committed annually for climate change adaptation is not large when viewed in the context of US$650 billion annual subsidization of carbon-based fuel. 

Dr Debapriya Bhattacharya, Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka, and former ambassador of Bangladesh to the WTO and UN Office in Geneva informed that a recent study has shown the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security in Bangladesh.  Climate change, trade and food security have both horizontal and vertical linkages which should be studied.  According to him, the issue of policy space for developing countries is not limited to trade only.  Developing countries need policy space to deal with a number of other issues as well, e.g., public finance, climate change, food security, etc.  He also felt that food chains that are led by multi-national corporations should find ways for equitable integration of small farmers in these chains. 

The event concluded that knowledge-creation and capacity building on trade-climate change-food security linkages is urgently needed. This will allow stakeholders in developing countries to better understand the challenges and find holistic solutions.