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Responding to the Consequences of Climate Change by Establishing a Global Agricultural Governance
Executive Vice President of momagri
The March-April 2008 issue1 of the journal Défense, published by France's Institute of National Higher Defense Studies (IHEDN) includes a special report on climate change and security implications. Indeed, the defense world considers that access to agricultural resources will be an issue of strategic importance in upcoming years, and that as a result certain strategies that currently guide international relations analyses must be reconsidered.
Jérémie Hammedi, Policy Officer at the Délégation aux affaires stratégiques (DAS) [French Ministry of Defense], stresses this in his article entitled "Security in a World of Shortages." For Hammedi, the multiple risks related to the increasing scarcity of resources could be exacerbated under the effects of climate change and make it necessary to design new strategies to face future challenges.
The extent and effects of climate change, particularly in terms of access to agricultural resources, have led to a debate that demonstrates that it is difficult, and perhaps even impossible to make accurate forecasts. In response, momagri is looking at the problem from a different angle and asking a key question: Will the WTO's agricultural policy enable the organization to face the consequences of climate change or will it, on the other hand, exacerbate these consequences?
Agriculture: At the heart of international concerns about climate change
Climate change is today the subject of a plethora of studies and analyses (by the IPCC, France's Foundation for Strategic Research, etc.) that all share the goal of evaluating the likely effects of this problem. While there are significant variations in the results, which are all alarmist to differing degrees, it is clear that all of them place agriculture at the heart of international concerns due to its unique relation to the vagaries of weather.
Jérémie Hammedi's analysis adds to the great body of work on this subject. It describes, not without a certain degree of pessimism, the many risks that could arise as a result of climate change: shortages of food and water resources, a reduction of fish stocks, the massive displacement of populations toward large, already overpopulated urban centers in developing countries, migratory pressure in developed countries, etc. According to Hammedi, climate change foretells our entry into a world marked by shortages and global constraints that will directly affect the security of States.
However, Hammedi's analysis, as relevant as it may be, is just one scenario among many regarding the extent of climate change and its effects on access to resources, particularly agricultural resources. And the likelihood that this scenario will occur is just as low as the likelihood that the IPCC scenario will.
If we place the issue of climate change in the framework of the international negotiations in Doha, it seems that the question is not so much knowing when, how, and to what extent climate change will occur, but rather whether the agriculture strategy carried out by international organizations provides a relevant response.
Establishing a global governance: the winning wager for facing the many future risks
Based on current knowledge, what do we know? First, as Jérémie Hammedi demonstrates, there are potential risks related to climate change that will have a more or less significant impact on agriculture, particularly in developing countries and LDCs. This risk is even more worrisome because in these countries the rural populations are quite large. As a result, climate change will have a very negative impact on the development of these countries.
Second, as recent events have shown, there are certain risks that today jeopardize the food security of a number of States: shrinking global stocks, the failure of supply and demand to adjust automatically on agricultural markets and speculation on agricultural raw materials. By dismantling regulatory tools, the WTO strategy of completely liberalizing agricultural markets will make producers and consumers even more vulnerable to the volatility of agricultural prices. Once again, it is the food security of developing countries and LDCs that risks serious consequences.
Just as Blaise Pascal demonstrated with his "wager" that the strategy of believing in God wins out over not believing, the current WTO strategy on agriculture is a losing one, because it comes to a deadlock on the essential issue, i.e., the intrinsic instability of agricultural markets. We must face the facts: it is consubstantial with agriculture and even if, like some experts and leaders, we do not believe, it is better to make the wager to believe because it will then be possible to develop a winning strategy for the world's future. Moreover, momagri has demonstrated the existence of this volatility, which is much more concrete than the existence of God. It is, therefore, a sure bet.
Consequently, it is necessary to implement a regulated liberalization of international agricultural markets and to establish global governance for agriculture. In particular, this regulation of agricultural markets would be carried out through the establishment of equilibrium prices for each product and region and by building global stocks. These measures would enable the international community to face the known risk represented by the volatility of agricultural prices and, subsequently, if climate change does indeed occur, to face the consequences. Moreover, establishing global agricultural governance requires entrusting a "central" institution with the implementation of this regulation. The major international organizations (WTO, World Bank, FAO, etc.) only consider agriculture in a fragmented manner. It is, therefore, necessary to create a world agriculture organization whose mandate would encompass all of the major issues facing the agricultural sector.
1 Défense, no. 132, March-April 2008.