Pre-COP 2021: FAO paves the way to COP 26

With just three weeks to go until the most important climate conference since Paris, pre-COP 26 events got the conversations going. The 26th United Nations Conference preparatory meetings brought together climate and energy ministers from countries, to discuss and exchange views on key political aspects of the negotiations and delve into topics that will be addressed at COP26.

The events, both virtual and in presence, took place just weeks after the UN climate change report was launched, stating the need for nations to redouble climate efforts if they are to prevent global temperature increases beyond the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2C – ideally 1.5C – by the end of the century.

FAO hosted and co-led 19 events that covered a range of themes related to agri-food systems, from youth to indigenous knowledge, gender equality to climate services. With climate change adaptation the most neglected half of the climate equation, what were the outcomes of these events that pave the way for effective negotiations and outcomes at COP26?

The following action points were highlighted as key:

Youth-led action through intergenerational collaboration

An event on harnessing the power of youth highlighted the importance of youth platforms like the World Food Forum, giving a space to youth worldwide to find actionable solutions to make our agri-food systems more climate-resilient. The solution focused roundtable “Is academia ready to support youth in contributing to enhanced transparency under the Paris Agreement?” revealed how climate negotiation and climate action can be backed by academic institutions like universities that could become central hubs for building, utilizing and retaining climate-related capacities over time. Enhancement of the research-policy interface was described as being of paramount importance, specifically in developed countries.

Climate services - key in renewed Nationally Determined Contributions

The event on livestock and climate change revealed the importance of investing in and scaling up climate services for agriculture, to enhance users’ understanding of the impacts of climate on their decisions and actions, safeguarding millions of lives and livelihoods. Climate services should be an area of focus in renewed NDCs and were described in detail at another event where a new FAO publication on targeted investment in climate services Global outlook on climate services in agriculture – Investment opportunities to reach the last mile was launched.

Gender – the critical role of women

COP26 must deliver a pathway to building resilience. Women and girls have a critical role to play– as decision-makers, educators and advocates at all levels and are among the most influential figures in international climate diplomacy today. But progress is needed, within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) alone, 67 percent of delegates and 73 percent of heads and deputy heads of delegation are male.

A key takeaway from the FAO-led event spoke loud and clear, empowering women to become UNFCCC negotiators is key to reaching gender equity at the negotiation table. A second event showcasing the career paths of women from farming communities working for climate action, revealed the need for career guidance for women from an early age.

“To achieve gender equity, we need to empower women in agriculture and improve their participation in decision-making. This is why FAO has trained women agricultural experts who will proudly represent their countries in the global decision-making space on climate change at COP26”. Said Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director and coordinator of FAO’s engagement at COP26.

The voice of the farmers and indigenous youth

COP26 will be an opportunity for businesses particularly those working on fair trade with farmers – those growing the world's food and other essential goods in low-income, climate-vulnerable nations – to listen to the voices of the farmers. An event ‘Innovative approaches of adaptation to climate change in Africa: Farmer Field schools (FFS) & Climate-Smart Villages (CSV) revealed how FFS’s can generate long-term changes in agricultural practices and empower farmers; the tangible evidence they generate shows what agricultural options work best and why. Experts at the meetings advised that reporting and evaluation of FFS and CSVs is critical, as is the involvement of local authorities.

Over a hundred indigenous youth who joined the launch of a new publication at the event ‘Indigenous youth as agents of change’ demonstrated the unique abilities of Indigenous youth and Indigenous Peoples’ communities to adapt and react to climate change and crisis with traditional knowledge. These key learnings in adaptation and resilience will be amplified at COP, enabling the voices of indigenous communities to be heard in climate policy decisions at national and international levels.

These are just a few of the outcomes of Pre-COP events that revealed how a successful outcome at COP 26 will entail a balanced package of decisions and actions reflecting the expectations, concerns and needs of all stakeholders in multiple areas—all set against a backdrop of ambition.  Climate finance was referenced throughout the week and honouring the pledge of mobilizing USD 100 billion per year for mitigation and adaptation will be a prerequisite for success at next month’s conference.