A U-N agency says there are major funding gaps in efforts to help the agricultural sector adapt to climate change.  The Food and Agriculture Organization, the FAO, says this could affect food security.  The warning comes as the U-N Climate Change Conference continues in Cancun, Mexico.

The World Bank estimates it will cost about $2.5 billion a year ? for the next 40 years ? to help agriculture in developing countries adapt to climate change.  Other estimates say costs could run as high at $14 billion a year.

However, the FAO says, ?Available financing mechanisms are substantially insufficient to meet the climate change and food security challenges faced by the agricultural sector.?  This, despite the fact that the FAO says there are many examples of how agriculture can become more resilient.

FAO Senior Environmental Economist Leslie Lipper says, ?It?s not just setting up the mechanisms; it?s actually getting a commitment of the resources.  One of the points in the FAO document is that there?s not enough investment resources being committed.  Even in the context of climate change adaptation (for) agriculture, there?s not sufficient resources to cover what the costs are.?

What?s more, she says, ?And then it is complicated sometimes to set up the mechanisms to actually get the financing where you need it to go.?

Creative financing

Lipper says one possible solution is to link funding for climate change adaptation to other programs.

?We also look at the potential to link with existing financing mechanisms for agricultural development and overseas development assistance.  And work through those in order to reduce the costs of getting this financing in,? she says.

The global economic crisis is one reason for the lack of financing.

?Well it doesn?t help,? says Lipper, ?but there?s been a long term decrease in investment in agriculture.  So, no, it?s not just that.  It?s a lack of recognition of the importance of the sector and a lack of political commitment to really meet the commitments to decrease food insecurity and also now to meet climate change mitigation adaptation.?

The U.N. estimates the agricultural sector will need to feed 9 billion people by 2050.

Lipper says, ?First of all, we know that developing country agriculture needs to grow in order to provide the basis for achieving food security ? provide food and incomes for people, the rural poor.  We also know they?ll be facing adaptation.  We need funds in there to get more resilient type of production systems. They?re facing more variability of climate shocks and there?s a need to make the production systems more stable.?

But the FAO economist says the news isn?t all bad.

?A lot of the same changes that you want for increasing people?s incomes, food production and resilience, also give you a mitigation benefit, which means either reducing emissions or increasing carbon sequestration either in soils or in plants.  Basically pulling the emissions back and putting it back in the ground.  And that has an additional benefit,? she says.

She adds, ?We think that by combining mitigation adaptation financing for these kinds of things is one potential way of dealing with this issue of the investment gap.?

The FAO also says developing countries should have national policies that encourage private investment in mitigation and adaptation.