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Cancun, Mexico – A watered-down United Nations climate deal reached early this morning missed another opportunity to support climate-resilient agriculture and global food security, according to the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Overall, the agreement represents a step back from legally-binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions set in the Kyoto Protocol, and a step forward for non-binding pledges from last year’s Copenhagen Accord. This significantly weakened framework is a severe blow to agriculture, a sector most vulnerable to climate change.

“This weak agreement is a retreat from serious efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that is a tremendous loss for farming communities everywhere,” said IATP’s Shefali Sharma. “Farmers, particularly in developing countries, are already experiencing the effects of climate change through increased droughts, floods and other extreme weather. However, this agreement does not prioritize agriculture adaptation and fails to address the complex linkages between food security, livelihoods and ecological resilience.”

In the final hours of the negotiations, industrialized countries led by New Zealand, United States and Canada, attempted and failed to fast-track a standalone work program on agriculture. Though a side issue in the negotiations, significant efforts were made by New Zealand and others to bypass the impasse on “cross-sectoral approaches” to move ahead on agriculture with a primary focus on mitigation, rather than adaptation. Developing countries have opposed a standalone decision on agriculture without a framework that deals with other sectors that contribute to greenhouse gases.

The climate talks in Cancún were plagued by a chaotic and mostly exclusive negotiating process with close to 150 governments often left out of negotiating “green rooms,” multiple versions of texts, and no clear schedules and timetables. Additionally, civil society groups, who have provided the political momentum for a global climate treaty, were further restricted access from the negotiations in Cancún.