Assessing Agricultural Climate Change Adaptation Plans of OECD Nations

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Assessing Agricultural Climate Change Adaptation Plans of OECD Nations

The adverse effects of climate change on worldwide agriculture include lower yields and slow productivity, particularly in mid- and low-latitude countries.

Despite efforts to address climate change specifically to lower emissions, these impacts are expected to worsen. The projected agricultural loss and degradation of natural resources supporting the industry calls for urgent actions to adapt to climate change.

Although developing countries suffer the most from the effects of climate change, farmers in the OECD countries are not immune either. Developing resilient systems can reduce damage and position farmers to exploit emerging opportunities from the changing climate.

The OECD analysis, “Climate Change Adaptation Policies to Foster Resilience in Agriculture,” published in July 2023, takes stock of agricultural climate change adaptation programmes in OECD countries and evaluates their contribution to developing resilience using UNFCCC reporting documents.

This analysis aims to identify whether and how OECD countries are investing in agricultural climate change adaptation programmes and to what extent these programmes support the development of resilience within the agricultural sector.

The focus is on planned adaptation undertaken at a collective level rather than on autonomous adaptation implemented by farmers. Governments have an essential role to play in climate adaptation:

  • They can alter the institutional constraints that shape the ability of farmers to undertake autonomous adaptation.
  • They can address issues related to market failures and equity.
  • They can invest in long-term transformative capacity beyond what is possible at the scale of the private individual or group.

The key messages of the paper are as follows:

  • Governments’ climate change adaptation programmes can strengthen agriculture’s resilience to adverse climatic events by investing in three critical resilience capacities –the absorptive capacity to prepare for or recover from a shock in the short run, the 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. However, the focus has shifted from an early emphasis on identifying vulnerabilities to incorporating evidence of specific programmes to support adaptation. That said, most of the discussion related to agriculture in these reports focuses on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.
  • This stocktake of agricultural climate change adaptation programmes demonstrates that significant strength already exists for the OECD as a whole in creating decision support tools, managing 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 about drought, flooding, and declining crop yields. However, other areas could benefit from greater investment in programmatic development for adaptation, namely livestock production, human capital development via extension and outreach, and pest and disease management. There may be opportunities to leverage the considerable catalogue of adaptation programmes among OECD countries to enhance information sharing about climate adaptation programmes and lessons learned to support efforts to develop resilience.
  • To date, investments in agricultural climate change adaptation programmes mostly emphasise measures that contribute to adaptive capacity. This likely reflects a growing recognition that investing in short-run absorptive capacity is insufficient to address the ever-increasing 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 coverage of country actions, the reporting documents reveal some foundations to build transformational capacity have been established. Members cultivate partnerships and collaborative planning, support multidisciplinary research, and develop decision-support tools for non-incremental changes in agricultural production systems. Future efforts may address informational, cost, and institutional obstacles to systemic change.

Read the paper by clicking the link in the “Source” section below.


Climate Change Adaptation Policies to Foster Resilience in Agriculture: OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Paper. (2023 July). Reliefweb. Retrieved from

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