A Quick Guide To Climate Change

The Paris Agreement has been signed on April 22 by global leaders. The valubale text, reached at COP 21 in December, set an unprecedented standard in addressing the causes and impact of climate change. Now it needs to be translated into urgent and ambitious investment and action. In this quick guide, we explain the World Food Programme’s work to build the resilience of vulnerable people to climate change, and what the Paris Agreement means for our goal of ending hunger by 2030. 

1) Why does WFP care about climate change?

The World Food Programme aims to eradicate hunger in our lifetime, a bold aim that is manifested in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and is at the centre of Agenda 2030.

This vision cannot be achieved without urgent and ambitious action to address climate change. WFP’s own work with the UK Met Office, to project vulnerability to food insecurity under different climate change scenarios, illustrates both the strong need for large-scale investments in adaptation and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in order to end hunger by 2030 and beyond.

2) How does climate change drive hunger?

Each year between 80 and 90 percent of natural disasters are climate-related, primarily floods, storms and droughts. These disasters destroy assets, land, livestock, crops and food supplies, and make it harder for people to access markets and food networks.

Climate disasters also affect water access and quality, care practices, and access to healthy diets, further affecting hunger and malnutrition. Climate change will make this situation worse.

According to the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change could increase the risk of hunger and malnutrition by up to 20 percent by 2050. Infographic: How climate change drives hunger.

3) How much of WFP’s work is climate-related? 

Helping countries reduce disaster risk and adapt and build resilience to climate change is core to WFP’s work:

•    In the last decade, almost half of WFP emergency and recovery operations responded to, and helped people recover from, climate-related disasters, with a budget of US$23 billion. WFP responded to climate disasters in 20 countries more than 5 times. 

•    In the last five years, 40 percent of WFP’s operations included activities to reduce disaster risk, build resilience or help people adapt to climate change. The majority of these activities took place within emergency operations and protracted relief and recovery operations.

•    In 2014, WFP reached 80 million people with food assistance in 82 countries. 12.7 million people received WFP food as an incentive to build assets that reduce the risk of climate disasters and build resilience over time, helping them break out of a cycle of chronic vulnerability

4) What is WFP doing to address climate change?

•    WFP’s analysis work helps governments and communities to understand the links between food security and climate risks, the impact of climate change on food security and nutrition, and to identify the most vulnerable communities and the policy and action needed to build their resilience.

•    WFP supports local communities, national governments and regional institutions to develop food-assistance programmes that build resilience and reduce hunger. 

•    WFP is a leader in climate-resilience innovations to help the most vulnerable people diversify their livelihoods, protect assets, incomes and crops with insurance and savings, improve access to markets, and help informed decision-making with better climate forecasts.

•    WFP’s climate policy work includes improving climate risk analyses to better understand the impact of climate change on food security for better policies and programmes, sharing experiences in innovative climate risk management and adaptation programmes to support replication, and engaging in the UNFCCC process on adaptation, loss and damage, climate finance, and food security and agriculture.

5) Is WFP offering new solutions?

WFP is a leading innovator in climate resilience for food security. Here are some examples:

•    Linking climate change adaptation and resilience to safety nets through the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative, a comprehensive risk management scheme. R4 has broken new ground in the field of rural risk management by enabling the poorest farmers to pay for crop insurance with their own labour.

•    Forecast-based financing. FoodSECuRE is a tool that triggers funds before climate disasters occur, allowing WFP to scale-up nutrition programming and disaster risk reduction activities so that people are more resilient and prepared if a forecasted crisis hits.  FoodSECuRE also ensures funds are available during the emergency response and post-disaster, because only through multi-year funding can we build long-term resilience. 

•    Climate services. WFP is one of the few organizations helping smallholder farmers access and co-produce relevant and easy-to-understand climate, weather and agricultural information, so that they are able to take better decisions to manage impending droughts and floods. In Malawi and Tanzania, WFP is reaching farmers through radio programmes, mobile phone (SMS and audio) and training of agricultural extension workers, on how to interpret and communicate climate information to rural audiences.

•    Early warning. WFP and Germany are collaborating on a project in five countries that not only helps governments to improve their climate-risk analysis and develop early warning systems, but also links these tools to their disaster preparedness procedures.

6) Is WFP making a difference?

WFP innovations are helping build the resilience of vulnerable households to climate risks. In 2015, the R4 Rural Resilience Initiative reached almost 200,000 people across Ethiopia, Senegal, Malawi and Zambia. R4 provided 2.2 million USD in micro insurance protection, through insurance-for-assets, to these farmers, while supporting them to reduce their exposure to climate disasters and improve their livelihoods.   

WFP is also expanding its reach with climate services, providing almost 10,000 people in Malawi and Tanzania with downscaled climate forecasts and advisories that can help them make better livelihoods decisions and prepare for potential climate disasters. 

Through FoodSECuRE, which was fast-tracked in 2015 to address the potential impacts of El Niño, 1,000 households in Zimbabwe and Guatemala received anticipatory support to build their resilience ahead of the peak of the drought. 

WFP is implementing climate change adaptation projects in Ecuador, Egypt, Mauritania and Sri Lanka, helping more than 750,000 people adapt to climate change and build resilient food security systems. Specific activities include capacity building, livelihood diversification and increasing adaptive capacity through creation of physical assets. 

7) What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the framework of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) governing greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance from 2020 onwards. The agreement was negotiated during the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 21) in Paris, and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015 by 195 countries. The ratifying ceremony takes place on 22 April.

Countries committed to lowering emissions to a level that limits global warming to well below 2°, and agreed to review their progress every five years. Countries also set a minimum yearly target of USD 100 billion in climate finance for developing countries by 2020.  

Donors committed pledges to the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the newest and largest climate change fund under the UNFCCC which plans to invest a total of USD 2.5 billion in both mitigation and adaptation projects by the end of 2016.

WFP was accredited as Multilateral Implementing Entity (MIE) of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in March 2016 for micro-size projects (USD 10 million) with low environmental and social risk level.

8) What does the climate deal mean for WFP?

The Paris Agreement represents a major step forward in the global effort to tackle climate change and end hunger. At the centre of the agreement is the importance of achieving food security and eradicating hunger and poverty.

The Paris Agreement will shape WFP's work in the years to come, in areas ranging from food security and nutrition, to emergency preparedness, risk management and climate adaptation programmes. While the agreement was an unprecedented success, massive investment and action is now needed to help people build their resilience to climate shocks, become food secure and to thrive under a changing climate. 

9) What happens next?

To support the implementation of the Paris Agreement, WFP, together with communities, partners and governments, will be taking forward its innovative efforts and many others to translate the ambition of Paris into action to eradicate hunger in communities around the world.  

This includes helping governments to develop and implement national adaptation plans, such as through climate analyses and best practices that address food security concerns, in exploring tools that provide innovative, flexible funding to reduce the impacts of climate disasters on communities, and scaling up activities that link social protection and adaptation for long-term climate resilience.

Read more about WFP and climate change.