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New IAEA Climate Adaptation Project Launched at COP28


An IAEA event on building resilience in food and water systems using conventional and nuclear technologies was held 2 December 2023 at COP28 in Dubai. (Photo: N. Jawerth/IAEA)

A new international IAEA technical cooperation project, launched on 2 December 2023 at a United Nations Climate Conference (COP28) side event, will catalyze the IAEA’s existing climate adaptation activities in food and water security to harness the already expansive interregional networks of laboratories and facilitate international collaboration. The new climate adaptation project aims to support national efforts to ensure successful and sustainable solutions to the impacts of climate change.  

Attendees at the side event heard panellists describe how extreme weather events around the world are affecting key natural resources. Floods and droughts, and the near disappearance of essential bodies of water mean that populations everywhere are having to do more with less. Nuclear techniques, the audience heard, work in combination with conventional techniques to help countries to tackle harsh climate conditions, providing accurate data that allows decision-makers to assess the evolving situation, and also offering a range of effective adaptation options. 

“Without isotope hydrology we would know nothing about the effects of climate change on water resources. The same is true for greenhouse gas emissions – if we want to develop targeted mitigation methods we need to identify where they are coming from,” explained Professor Christoph Müller of Justus Liebig University, speaking at the event. 

Participants at the IAEA COP28 side event also heard how the IAEA has been able to help farmers in Namibia precisely identify moisture levels in their fields using nuclear technology, enabling the successful deployment of drip irrigation techniques. By connecting nuclear technology with conventional agricultural techniques, participating farmers have been able to increase water use efficiency by 80 per cent. The IAEA also helps countries to apply other nuclear techniques for food treatment, insect pest control and plant breeding. At the moment, 146 countries are working with the IAEA on technical cooperation projects that address climate change adaptation.  

Panellists at the event lauded the importance of partnerships in implementing sustainable and far-reaching solutions to climate change challenges, including through the provision of funds for technical cooperation efforts. “We recognize that we need to scale up our engagement in the development sector and that we need to use technology to make crops more resistant to drought and other things,” said Zamir Iqbal, Islamic Development Bank Vice President of Finance. “We believe in the technology being promoted by the IAEA – we can make good use of it and our member states can benefit from it for sustainable development,” he added. 

Deputy Director General Najat Mokhtar joins panellists at a COP28 side event to discuss the IAEA's support to countries to improve water and food availability. (Photo: K. Vargas/IAEA)

Najat Mokhtar, Deputy Director General of the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Science and Applications, described the IAEA’s key partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as a tried and tested example of in-depth cooperation. 

“We are teaming up with the FAO through the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture and the #Atoms4Food initiative to scale up the data and proof of concept to ensure food security when dealing with climate change,” said Mokhtar. “We cannot do this alone – we need to partner with academia, with financial institutions, with UN organizations. The challenge ahead of us is so big that we cannot tackle it alone,” she elaborated. 

The new four-year IAEA technical cooperation project will start in January 2024 and requires in-kind and financial contributions from new partners to realize its global scope. The project aims to provide support to IAEA Member States in the areas of food and water availability. More information to become a partner here

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