October 4, 2023


Key messages

• Governments’ climate change adaptation programmes can strengthen agriculture’s resilience to adverse climatic events by investing in three key resilience capacities – absorptive capacity to prepare for or recover from a shock in the short run, adaptive capacity to implement incremental changes in the medium run, and transformative capacity to create a fundamentally new agricultural production system in the long run.

• Using UNFCCC reporting documents, this analysis evaluates how OECD countries view the vulnerabilities of their agricultural sectors to climate change; the types of adaptation measures and programmes they have considered or implemented; the degree to which these programmes are targeted to key vulnerabilities; and the contribution of adaptation programmes to developing resilience over the short, medium, and long run. While UNFCCC documents do not capture the full breadth of actions undertaken on agricultural adaptation to date, they can inform a systematic assessment of the evolution of national views and responses to climate change adaptation across OECD members.

• Discussion of adaptation in the UNFCCC reporting documents of OECD members has increased significantly over time and ideas related to resilience have recently begun to gain traction. The extent to which the documents discuss agriculture has remained relatively stable, although the focus has shifted from an early emphasis on identifying vulnerabilities, to now incorporating evidence of specific programmes to support adaptation. That said, the majority of the discussion related to agriculture in these reports focuses on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions.

• This stocktake of agricultural climate change adaptation programmes demonstrates that, for the OECD as a whole, significant strength already exists in the creation of decision support tools, the management of soil and water resources, and cultivar selection and breeding. These programmes address the agricultural vulnerabilities identified most frequently by members in the reporting documents, namely concerns related to drought, flooding, and declining crop yields. However, other areas could benefit from greater investment in programmatic development for adaptation, namely livestock production, the development of human capital via extension and outreach, and pest and disease management. There may be opportunities to leverage the considerable catalogue of adaptation programmes that exists among OECD countries to enhance information sharing about adaptation programmes and lessons learned to support efforts to develop resilience.

• Investments in agricultural climate change adaptation programmes to date mostly emphasise measures that contribute to adaptive capacity. This likely reflects a growing recognition that investing in short-run absorptive capacity is not sufficient to address the growing magnitude and range of climate risks. Actions that contribute to long-run transformative capacity are beginning to emerge, but lag behind medium-run measures.

• While not necessarily comprehensive in coverage of country actions, the reporting documents reveal that some foundations to build transformational capacity have been established. Members are cultivating partnerships and collaborative planning, supporting multidisciplinary research, and developing decision support tools for non-incremental changes in agricultural production systems. Future efforts may focus on addressing informational, cost, and institutional obstacles to systemic change.

Read the full report here

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