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Keeping the Region Fed in a Warming World

APEC Bulletin 4 October 2017

Keeping the Region Fed in a Warming World

APEC Plans for Climate Change and Food Security for the Long Haul

On a small farm in Singapore, a relatively cheap and simple new technology is being tested that could benefit farmers throughout the region hit hardest by climate change.

Anti-thermal nanoparticles that reflect the sun’s powerful infrared rays have been imbedded in plastic sheeting. Thrown over greenhouses, the sheeting successfully reduces temperatures inside, resulting in increased production of lettuce and other vegetables.

This new technology could assist a range of farmers whose crops and livestock have been adversely affected by rising temperatures caused by climate change.

“Global warming has taken a toll on farmers globally. Farmers are now experiencing extremely hot and dry temperatures that have decimated crops,” said Associate Professor Matthew Tan, co-chair of the APEC Partnership on Food Security, who specializes on sustainable development in agriculture and fisheries.

“For the farmers to survive, the use of new technology is no longer a choice but a necessity,” said Tan, whose group is working to increase awareness and dissemination of such technologies, research and development that can help farmers in the region combat climate change.

The plastic sheeting technology was shared at recent APEC meetings, as the multilateral body bolsters its efforts to strengthen food security in the Asia-Pacific—including by, among other things, sharing knowledge and technologies that can mitigate the effects of climate change.

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Global food production must rise in volume by at least 60 per cent by 2050 to feed the expected world population of 9.15 billion people, according to high-level experts who met in Can Tho City, Viet Nam, last August.

APEC economies are certain to play a critical part in meeting that rise in supply, given their huge role in today’s agricultural value chain and the importance of trade in the region. But extreme changes in weather, including droughts, floods and storms could harm food production, driving up food prices and hitting the most vulnerable sections of society hardest.

Viet Nam’s agriculture officials told a high-level policy dialogue in Can Tho of their efforts to curb the potential impacts of climate change on the critical Mekong Delta, the country’s main rice-growing region.

Temperature rises of more than one degree Celsius caused by greenhouse gas emissions would result in a devastating 10 per cent reduction in annual rice production in the region, according to an estimate by the Viet Nam Institute of Agricultural Science.

With climate change a key priority for APEC in 2017, ministers meeting in Can Tho endorsed a multi-year action plan for promoting a more coordinated regional approach to strengthening food security and addressing climate change.

“Increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events due to climate change are already negatively affecting agricultural production systems and food security,” the ministers responsible for agriculture and food security said in a statement.

The ministers also stressed the importance of continuing to reduce barriers to trade, so that farmers can have access to domestic, regional and international markets to increase their profitability.

“This action plan is about the economies having a more dynamic, concerted approach to this issue, by sharing, promoting and cooperating for years to come,” said Mark Manis, a senior policy advisor with the US Department of Agriculture, who has been among those closely involved in the plan’s development.

“It’s the first time we have developed such a major strategy on this subject on a long-term basis,” Manis said of the plan, initially running from 2018 to 2020.

The plan will focus on boosting understanding between economies on policies, regulations and other information about food security and climate change at the government level for informed decision-making.

Strengthening cooperation and knowledge sharing among economies of best practices in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture production are also a crucial part of the plan.

Increasing access to technologies to mitigate climate change was also a focus, along with enhancing the capacity of policymakers and industry groups to increase productivity, reduce post-harvest loss and waste, improve adaptation and mitigation and strengthen climate information services.

Initial meetings in Can Tho to move forward on the action plan were widely attended by economies, most of which are already feeling the impact of climate change, Manis confirmed.

“There is unified support for this. Now we need to start working so that we can get out of the blocks quickly next year.”

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