The University of Chicago’s Development Innovation Lab has established an Innovation Commission concentrating on Climate Change, Food Security, and Agriculture. In addition, Michael Kremer, a University Professor in Economics at the College and the Harris School of Public Policy and a 2019 Nobel laureate, announced the AIM for Climate Summit in Washington, D.C.
According to Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico and a member of the Commission, the world is grappling with a significant gap in productivity and escalating food insecurity. The added impact of climate change elevates the urgency to address these issues, making it a dual challenge of adaptation and mitigation.
Agriculture is responsible for approximately a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. However, several innovative strategies could help lessen the climate impact of agriculture, including developing green fertilizers and crops that sequester carbon, livestock feed additives to cut down methane emissions, better soil-chemistry advice for farmers, enhanced rock weathering, and the introduction of payments for environmental services.
Simultaneously, climate change poses significant threats to farmers, particularly those in low-income countries. Multiple innovative solutions can support farmers in adapting to climate change, such as drought-resistant seeds, improved weather forecasts paired with digital agricultural advisory services, innovative insurance, resilience-boosting investment financing systems, and weather-responsive safety nets.
Under Kremer’s leadership, the Innovation Commission will be managed by a Secretariat in collaboration with top researchers, innovators, and practitioners from public, private, and non-profit sectors. The full Commission is set to be announced in the upcoming months.
Kremer noted the importance of investing in a broad range of potential innovations, given the tremendous costs of climate change, despite the risk that each innovation might not succeed. However, he stressed that commercial investment incentives often must catch up to social needs.
Public investment in R&D has an estimated social rate of return of 55%, a significantly high rate of return compared to most other investments. Moreover, the benefits of the green revolution, where improved crop varieties were developed and spread worldwide, outweigh all development assistance costs.
Over the next three years, the Innovation Commission will analyze evidence and make recommendations on innovations with the potential to address the interlinked challenges of climate change, food security, and agriculture. The Commission will also review proposals for meta-innovations or new systems designed to promote innovation and meet these global challenges.
The Commission will leverage the experiences of its members, including former heads of state, finance ministers, and leaders in international organizations. In addition, Kremer’s experience co-founding Development Innovation Ventures at USAID has generated an estimated $17 of social benefits for each $1 spent, and his role in designing a $1.2 billion advance market commitment for new pneumococcal vaccines will also inform the Commission’s work.