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"Climate Smart Agriculture" causes confusion


Climate Smart Agriculture is gaining attention in government, NGO, academic, corporate, research and international policy spaces. Agriculture is at the heart of climate change concerns as food systems around the world feel the effects of climate change and the issue of agricultures’s contribution to global emissions gains attention.

But there is growing confusion and debate over what the term 'Climate Smart Agriculture' means and whether it really can benefit food systems in the face of climate change.

The concept of 'Climate Smart Agriculture' was developed by the FAO and the World Bank with claims of "triple wins" in agriculture through mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions), adaptation (supporting crop growth in changing weather), and increasing yields. A number of industrialised countries, particularly the US, and agribusiness corporations are the most enthusiastic promoters of the concept.

But civil society and farmer organisations are expressing increasing concern over the term being used to green-wash industrial agricultural practices that will harm future food production. Some governments and NGOs also worry that pressure to adopt Climate Smart Agriculture will actually mean developing countries’ food systems take on an unfair mitigation burden. They point out that their agricultural systems have contributed the least to the problem, but that mitigation obligations could limit their ability to effectively adapt to the climate challenges ahead.

Ultimately, there is no guarantee that 'Climate Smart Agriculture' actually is smart for the climate, agriculture or farmers.