EBRD conference highlights private sector role in tackling climate change in food industry

By Anthony Williams
@ebrdtony

EBRD conference highlights private sector role in tackling climate change in food industry

At COP22 event, Nicholas Stern says agriculture and climate change “inextricably linked”

The private sector must play a key role in addressing climate challenges in the agricultural sector and in helping farmers reduce their own impact on the climate, a conference on the sidelines of the United Nations COP22 climate talks in Marrakesh heard today.

At the event staged by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)  – Food and Climate Change: The Role of the Private Sector – leading climate specialist Nicholas Stern said agricuture and climate change were inextricably linked.

He noted that food production methods were already changing as a result of the risks posed by climate change. The private sector was aware that continued profitability of the food and agricultural sector depended on the preservation of environmental resources that were vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The momentum generated by last year’s Paris climate agreement and the new Sustainable Development Goals agreed in 2015 presented “a valuable opportunity for private sector agricultural and food actors to take an active role in finding solutions to the common challenges which lie ahead”, he said.

The EBRD’s Managing Director for Economics, Policy and Governance, Mattia Romani, told the conference that the Bank’s investments in agribusiness were all in the private sector, supporting the EBRD’s drive to make food production more sustainable, improve resource efficiency and reduce waste.   

The EBRD supports the agribusiness sector and it is one of the priorities in Egypt.

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The EBRD had observed changes in the way agribusiness companies addressed the global challenge of climate change and environmental issues in general.

Clients were seeking to increase competitiveness by being more efficient with water and energy, developing environmentally friendly land-management practices and the promotion of biofertilisers, bioenergy and other eco-products.

Such developments could not happen in a political vacuum and support from the public sector was necessary, he said, pointing to remaining gaps in government legislation which had the potential to distort competition both within and between countries.

“Water and energy pricing are important, and so are public policies aimed at making sustainable use of resources, protecting vulnerable resources, creating infrastructure that facilitates adaptation to climate change, and developing appropriate financial mechanisms,” Dr Romani said.

The EBRD has been supporting the development of market economies since its creation in 1991 and is now active in 36 countries across three continents – from Mongolia in Central Asia to Morocco on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, from Estonia on the Baltic to Egypt on the Mediterranean.

In helping to promote efficient, robust and resilient economies, the EBRD has placed a high priority on ensuring food security and energy efficiency and combating climate change.

It has financed close to 600 transactions in the agribusiness sector, exceeding €10 billion of cumulative investment.

At the same time the Bank is firmly committed to increasing its climate finance. Under its Green Economy Transition approach the EBRD is aiming to scale up its green economy investments from 30 per cent of the total portfolio today to 40 per cent by 2020.

“Part of our success will depend on the private sector’s willingness to undertake investments in this area, and agribusinesses are key,” Dr Romani told the conference.