Pacific Economic Cooperation Council: food production in Peru and other developing economies most vulnerable to climate change

Food production in developing countries of the Asia-Pacific region will be most affected by climate change, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, ahead of the APEC Leaders’ Summit in the Peruvian capital of Lima this weekend.

“According to our scenarios, the impact of climate change will vary according to the latitudes of the economy, with gains most expected in the northern parts of the region and losses in tropical/equatorial areas,” said Dr. Walter Armbruster, Pacific Food System Outlook project Chairman.

Over the next century, agricultural productivity is projected to increase by 9 percent in the United States and Canada, but decline 20 percent in  Latin American countries on the Pacific coast, such as Peru, and 9 percent in Southeast Asia.

“This is of great concern to us because of the concentration of food-insecure people in the very region who will be affected negatively by climate change, said Armbruster.

The number of food-insecure people in the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council, or PECC, region is about 11 percent, or 210 million people, with the greatest regional incidence in the poorest economies in Southeast Asia, South America, and parts of China.

These areas, where agricultural production and food system infrastructure are located in low-lying coastal areas, are particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

Sea levels are expected to rise between 0.18 and 0.59 meters by 2100 and many economies are already at average temperatures that are close to or exceeding optimal levels for agriculture, the PECC reported in its study.

“These projections assume an average increase in temperature of between 1-to-3 degrees centigrade over the next 100 years,” said Armbruster. “Anything more and the impact on productivity throughout the region will be negative.”

According to the report, although climate change can have serious consequences for food insecurity, the overall impacts are modest compared to other non-climate related factors.

Nonetheless, adequate measures need to be taken to address the issue and, according to Armbruster, “policy makers have significant roles to play in climate change adaptation and mitigation.”

Armbruster has proposed launching initial programs to reduce greenhouse gases preferably on a global scale through APEC, the United Nations or similar institutions. He also suggested supporting public funding for research and development, expanding production of biofuels in a cost-effective manner, and promoting the greatest possible openness in the region’s food system and efficient food allocation in case of food supply disruptions.

The PECC’s report was published alongside its annual survey of leaders in government, business and media, which indicated that interest for climate change is waning in the Pacific Rim, as concern for the looming global financial crisis has become the top priority.

According to the survey, 24 percent of some 400 world leaders said the top priority for Asia-Pacific leaders during APEC should be addressing the US-bred financial crisis, far outweighing other issues. The proposed Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific was second in importance, followed by the WTO Doha Development Round, but both of these items ranked far behind the financial crisis.

Climate change, a big issue during the Sydney APEC  Summit in 2007, still ranked highly but is down in the list of priorities. While it is still a top five issue for most of the sub-regions including Northeast Asia, North America and Australia-New Zealand, only Southeast Asia and South America did not have climate change as a top five priority issue.

Food security and climate change concerned 6 percent of respondents, and came in ranked sixth and seventh respectively in the top 19 chart of priorities for APEC leaders to discuss in Lima.

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