LOSS and DAMAGE – two words with so much meaning.

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This blog post is written by Hanna Wolf, Division of Environmental Integration SLU and advisor at Sida’s Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change.

Climate activists at COP27
Photo: UNFCCC_COP27_19Nov22_CivilSocietyActions_KiaraWorth-8, CreativeCommons

LOSS and DAMAGE. Two words with so much meaning. For some it means the difference between hope and despair and for others it means facing costs and responsibilities. This year’s UN Climate Change Conference Of the Parties in Sharm El-Sheikh Egypt, COP 27, was the first COP where Loss and Damage were put on the agenda. For some that was a win in itself, for some it meant trouble.

COP 27 cannot be considered a success, far from it. It was only in the last minute the line on 1.5 degree Celsius target was kept. And a lot in the outcome text presented after two days overtime of negotiations, are missing. For example, much needed climate actions to drastically reduce emissions were not addressed. It is clear that the decision makers in Sharm El-Sheikh have not listened to what science tells us: e.g. that emissions peak before 2025 is necessary, the phase down of coal, and phase out of all fossil fuels is a must to limit global warming well below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels. That is the goal of the Paris Agreement, a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It was adopted by 196 Parties at COP 21 in Paris, on 12 December 2015 and entered into force on 4 November 2016.

However, this year’s conference closed with a reported breakthrough agreement to provide “loss and damage” funding for vulnerable countries hit hard by climate disasters.

This outcome moves us forward,” said Simon Stiell, UN Climate Change Executive Secretary. “We have determined a way forward on a decades-long conversation on funding for loss and damage – deliberating over how we address the impacts on communities whose lives and livelihoods have been ruined by the very worst impacts of climate change.”

UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) reports that the decision means that Governments agreed to establish new funding arrangements, as well as a dedicated fund, to assist developing countries in responding to loss and damage. Governments also agreed to establish a ‘transitional committee’ to make recommendations on how to operationalise both the new funding arrangements and the fund at COP28 next year.

But, the outcome is hardly a victory to celebrate for the most vulnerable countries. Just imagine Pakistan, still struggling with the devastating floods earlier this year, as an example of the need for a loss and damage fund, with over 1700 lives lost and destruction of critical infrastructure, loss of schools for millions of children, hospitals and health centres destroyed and livelihoods, farms and homes gone. I can’t help wonder, can that ever be compensated for? The progress on loss and damage is indeed historic and has the potential to support and increase the support for the most vulnerable. But lots of work has to be done before that is a reality.

For me in my role as an advisor, working with environment, climate and development, I have followed the meeting with great intensity. Although not physically present, I have been able to follow both side events and official meetings. Reports, comments, tweets, live streams and various notifications have strangely, despite the seriousness and the gloomy tones, given me energy to continue work for climate justice and climate action. From this year’s COP, I especially take with me, an increased dedication of keep referring to science in all my advisory services and that all my recommendations should be Paris aligned.

Decisions taken at the Sharm El-Sheikh climate change conference can be accessed here:  Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Change Conference – November 2022 | UNFCCC

More information on the Paris Agreement can be accessed on UNFCCC webpage: The Paris Agreement | UNFCCC


The Division of Environmental Integration at SLU was established in 2018 and works for an increased environmental integration in various sectors in society. The division manages Sida’s Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change in cooperation with the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

 

 

Video shoot with SLU Youth Institute

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This blog post was written by Viktoria Wiklicky, Research Assistant at the Department of Energy and Technology; Environmental Engineering Unit, SLU and first published at the blog Kretsloppsteknik.

To promote SLU Youth Institute and the advantages for high schools becoming part of it, Viktoria Wiklicky was invited to talk about the Black Soldier Flies in their 2022 launching video. Fly larva composting is a tool to close the loop of a now linear food production system and aims to make food production more circular. Promoting the technology to the next generation will ensure that our passion and our ideas will be continued in the future.

SLU Youth Institute aims to create interest among Swedish youth for global food security and to find sustainable solutions to the global challenges based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The programme was founded 2020 and is part of the many Youth Institutes coordinated by World Food Prize Foundation. High school students engage with local leaders and experts to discuss critical global challenges, participate in hands-on activities, and explore exciting ways to make a difference in Sweden, across Europe and around the world. By the way, also the larvae showed their best side in the spotlight of the cameras and luckily, cameras cannot record smell (yet).

SLU has an important role to play in the implementation of Agenda 2030, in Sweden and beyond.

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This blog post was written by Jens Olsson, researcher at the Department of aquatic resources,Vice Dean responsible for environmental monitoring and assessment at the NJ-Faculty; and coordinator for SLU Water Forum.

Photo: Jens Olsson

The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) is an annually recurring meeting that serves as UN’s platform for sustainability and focus on reviewing the progress and achievements of Agenda 2030. This years’ forum took place in early July, and was the first since the pandemic to be held on site in the United Nations headquarters in New York. The theme for the meeting was recovery from the pandemic while also advancing the implementation of Agenda 2030. The Sustainable Development Goals (SGD’s) in focus for the meeting were SDG 4 (Quality Education), 5 (Gender Equality), 14 (Life Below Water), 15 (Life on Land) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals).

As SLU has extensive and decisive knowledge for the implementation of at least SDG 14 and 15, we were invited by the Government Offices of Sweden to be part of the Swedish delegation for HLPF. In my role as Vice Dean responsible for environmental monitoring and assessment at the NJ-Faculty and coordinator for SLU Water Forum, I participated as SLU’s representative in the delegation.

The reports shared at the meeting on the progress towards global sustainability was anything but positive. Despite that we are approaching the half-time summit of Agenda 2030, it is apparent that goal fulfilment is moving too slow, and in many cases in the opposite direction to what is desired. This is mainly the result of the Corona pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but also due to a lack of political will and societal commitment. The Ministerial declaration following HLPF was also one of the weakest so far, with substantial backlash with regards to gender equality and rights of vulnerable groups.

In spite of this negative development, during HLPF it was clearly stated that we now must go from words to action and accelerate the implementation of the extensive societal transformation needed to reach the ambitious goals of Agenda 2030. This also to hamper the impact of the concurrent and multiple global crises including climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. What was also obvious at the meeting is that the perspectives of young and vulnerable people are essential for this transformation to happen, as is making use of local knowledge from, among others, indigenous people. It was concluded that economic growth needs to be decoupled from negative impacts on biodiversity, and that we are at a stage in time where knowledge for reaching the goals is available. Now, perhaps more than ever before, political will and societal commitment are essential to move from words to action.

Photo: Jens Olsson

For me this was a true personal experience, and despite the reports of slow progress and backlash towards reaching the goals of the Agenda in 2030, it was fascinating to see and meet that many countries and committed people in one place at one time. In spite of all the bad news, the spirit of hope was present, and I witnessed that the majority of participating countries shared their ambitions for a more sustainable future. It was also instructive to be part of a large and inclusive delegation with participation from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds including representatives from governmental agencies (for example The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management), the civil societies, youth organisations and municipalities, and also politicians.

I think that for the implementation of Agenda 2030 in Sweden and beyond, SLU has a key role to play. However, we need to raise awareness of the Agenda in our organisation and accelerate our positive impact and contribution to social and environmental sustainability. Even more, I believe that we as a university can make a greater contribution with knowledge, data, advice, innovation and education to support the achievement of the ambitious goals of the Agenda.

Quelling an imperfect storm at Stockholm+50: Why transforming food systems through agroecology gets more urgent as a new food crisis unfolds

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The article was originally published on the Agroecology TPP website

Event proceedings at CIFOR-ICRAF Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya

On 30 May, the Transformative Partnership Platform on Agroecology (Agroecology TPP), together with co-hosts CIFOR-ICRAF, SEI, SIANI, SLU and UNEP, hosted the Stockholm+50 associated event on ‘The scope for agroecology to support integrated implementation of the three Rio Conventions through food system transformation.’

As a hybrid event – with panelists and the audience present in Stockholm, Sweden (SEI Headquarters), Nairobi, Kenya (ICRAF Headquarters), and online – it set out to explore the role of agroecology in strengthening the implementation of the three Rio Conventions and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all the while putting smallholder farmers and indigenous communities at the center.

The diverse group of panelists included names such as Pat Mooney of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and the Co-founder and Executive Director at ETC Group; Laura Scandurra, President at the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE) Board of Directors; Veronica Ndetu, Head of the Climate Change Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya; Elisabeth Simelton, Senior Policy Specialist – Agriculture at the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); and Marcos Lana, Associate Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences – with critical reflections from farmer representatives including Monica Yator, Founder of the Indigenous Women and Girls Initiative, and Irish Baguilat of the Asian Farmers Association.

The event was moderated by Fergus Sinclair, who is the Co-convenor of the Agroecology TPP, one of the coordinators of the Agroecology Coalition, and Chief Scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF. He gave an overview of the existing agroecology-related work on the ground as well as present-day partnerships and commitments. For instance, the Agroecology TPP, launched at the 46th Plenary of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS 46) in 2021, is a partnership that brings multiple actors together, interested in addressing knowledge and implementation gaps constraining agroecological transitions. The Agroecology Coalition that emerged from the UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) in September of last year is a coalition of the willing focused on action, with 33 countries, including the African and European Unions, and 63 organizations already on board. These include key UN bodies, civil society, research and regional farmers organizations, all committed to making agroecological transitions a reality.

Pat Mooney talked about a recently issued special report from IPES-Food – ‘Another perfect storm’ – which discusses the current global food crisis – a third one in 15 years – and what can be done to prevent the next one. He referred to ‘black swans’, talking about apparently unanticipated global challenges of which there are many, happening at the same time, and feeding off one another – such as broken food systems, degradation of land and water resources, climate change and biodiversity loss. However, when writing the report, the IPES-Food team realized these events were not such a bolt from the blue but could be expected, and so referred to them as ‘grey swans’. What does this mean in practice? He explained:

“These ‘grey swans’ – or challenging events – are not simply a one-off occurrence, they will happen again. The response to such crises starts with knowing that they are out there. On the food side, for example, we should be thinking about ways in which we can create a system that takes care of global food needs when normal structures fail … and ways of overcoming the existing legal obstacles when faced with, say, the food crisis. One possibility could be a treaty for food emergencies.”

The event strongly underlined the fact that these global challenges we face are connected with one another and therefore, as Elisabeth Simelton put it, “they should not be treated in isolation.” Instead, we should try to tackle them in a holistic – or systemic – manner.

Another important argument made concerned the critical role of smallholder farmers and indigenous communities in supplying food to the world. Both Marcos Lana and Monica Yator stressed that these farmers require support. As Monica outlined:

“Today, fertilizers are incredibly expensive. Indigenous and other farming communities simply cannot afford them. We need action, which means supporting these farmer groups. We need to listen to them. They should be heard.”

There were numerous interactions with the audience over the course of the event, with live questions being addressed by the panelists. A five-step poll was also shared, to get insights into what the audience deems important for the work on agroecology in relation to the implementation of the three UN Rio Conventions. As such, those in attendance – both physically and online – were asked to rate the importance of different proposed actions on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is not relevant and 10 is of vital importance. Reducing power asymmetry amongst actors in food systems was considered most important (77% ranking it of vital importance, with a mean score of 9.3).

Following the discussion held between the panelists, the outcome of an online poll and numerous comments and remarks from the audience, one important – and constant – theme emerged: moving from talking to action. This is exactly the remit of the Agroecology Coalition, which, building on the scientific knowledge of the Agroecology TPP and other organizations, will take the lead in making sure that the commitments made are being turned into real action on the ground.

Watch the recording here

Blunderous organic farming attempt

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This blog post was first published at SIANI and is written by Anudini Wijayarathna, Master’s student in Rural Development & Natural Resource Management at SLU. 

Having participated in the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021, I have observed different propositions presented by world leaders to transform prevailing global food systems to attain sustainable food systems and food security in the future. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka was one of them who unveiled Sri Lanka’s policy, which was already initiated in April 2021 to restrict importing chemical fertilisers, pesticides, and weedicides to make agriculture 100% organic. That appeared to be a promising step for a sustainable future in Sri Lanka. Now, it has been almost one year since the policy was implemented and I started wondering how far Sri Lanka has come along with it!

Tea pickers in Sri Lanka

A scheme with many promises

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa claimed that banning imports of agrochemicals and shifting toward organic fertiliser was an instrumental step to “sustainably transform its food systems and ensure greater food security and nutrition for people.” He also emphasised that this scheme further intends to “enhance market-oriented inclusive food value chains to reduce rural poverty.” Moreover, this was implemented, on the one hand, to combat widespread non-communicable diseases in Sri Lanka, such as Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), which are speculated to be caused by agrochemicals. On the other hand, many activists and experts outside the government depicted that this ban was a strategy to retain foreign currency reserves in Sri Lanka. However, with such promises, has Sri Lanka really become the world’s first 100% organic food producer or at least on track for it?

Full-scale experiment with disastrous outcomes  

Today, in pursuit of this venture,  Sri Lanka has become nothing but a debacle. This policy was implemented when people were wearied of many lockdowns while going through a foreign exchange crisis, mostly due to the disruption of the country’s main sources of income, such as international tourist arrivals, providing migrant labour etc., along with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, despite the disapproval and criticisms of many agricultural experts and academics in Sri Lanka, this policy was executed based on the recommendations and data presented by the government-appointed advisory committees. Adaptation of organic fertiliser and banning chemical fertiliser, pesticides and weedicides was a drastic change not only for farmers but also for the whole Sri Lankan agriculture sector. Although the president stated that changing farmers’ long accustomed practices in agriculture and production of organic fertiliser domestically is challenging, the implementation process did not reflect that point. The majority of the farmers in Sri Lanka were dependent on chemical fertiliser for nearly fifty years. The government rushed into this shift on full-scale without any prior pilot programme. Besides, the government could not even organise adequate procedures and methods to produce a sufficient quantity of organic fertiliser domestically. As a result, the government could only provide a small amount of organic fertiliser to farmers, and they constantly complained about its quality.

Apparently, this rash transformation resulted in a declining yield of paddy (rice), the staple food in Sri Lanka, and vegetables drastically, making farmers’ livelihoods miserable. In addition to that, the country’s other crops, including the main export crops linked to the food systems, such as tea, coconut, etc., are also suffering from a decrease in production. It already created food shortages among the general public and subsequently started food prices skyrocketing by disrupting the food systems and creating stagnation in the Sri Lankan export market amidst the prevailing financial crisis in Sri Lanka. Apart from that, the estimated yield losses in Sri Lanka would be as follows: Paddy (rice) – 30%-35%, tea – 50%, maize – 50%, potato – 30% – 50%, upcountry vegetables – 30%-50%, etc.

When domestic organic fertiliser production was not functioning correctly, and the food systems were dilapidated, the government even tried to import organic fertiliser to Sri Lanka based on controversial recommendations and shady agreements. Besides, the authorities had to import rice to fulfil the consumer need. Furthermore, the government stated that they would compensate the farmers who had devastating impacts by the fertiliser ban by paying around  USD 200 million for the loss of their harvest and  USD 149 million to rice farmers as subsidies. Eventually, the government withdrew its decision to ban most agrochemicals. Thus, this full-scale experiment of converting Sri Lanka into the first 100% organic nation, resulted in soaring rural poverty, destabilising food security, and worsening the whole country’s financial crisis.

Potatoes in Sri Lanka
Food for thought

No matter, this scheme in Sri Lanka brought destructive consequences; I believe shifting toward organic farming in any country is a constructive approach to uplift food security, public health, soil quality, groundwater and surface water quality, biodiversity, and many more. Yet, it has to be planned, organised, led, implemented, and controlled in a solid but customised manner. One main fact that should be upheld to realise the triumph of such policy is to understand and aim at the grass-root level of the food system, and the whole approach needs to be a bottom-up rather than a top-down. Besides, when implementing such a policy, there should be feasible and appropriate plans to produce or import organic fertiliser to cater for the requirement. Moreover, I highly consider that expediting transformation against deep-rooted practices will not prosper as change need time to be familiarised.

On the other hand,  organic farming still addresses a niche market in any society, so the shift should be strategic. The transformation toward organic farming can possibly start with a hybrid method where both organic and non-organic farming can function before escalating to the organic agriculture sector. Furthermore, as an initial step to promote organic farming and expand the market for organic food, I believe it can be incorporated into school meal programmes.

Most importantly, to create a better future for the next generations, the whole global community needs to learn lessons from past failures and execute sustainable practices without following short-sighted decisions.