CHICAGO & WASHINGTON, DC, May 10, 2023 – The Development Innovation Lab at University of Chicago is pleased to announce the launch of a new Innovation Commission for Climate Change, Food Security and Agriculture.

Michael Kremer, University Professor in Economics and the College and the Harris School of Public Policy and 2019 Nobel laureate, announced its launch this morning at the AIM for Climate Summit in Washington, D.C.

“We already have a huge gap in productivity and rising food insecurity across countries,” said Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico and Commission member. “Adding climate change to the equation introduces a further layer of urgency. This topic has to be confronted as a dual challenge of adaptation and mitigation, relying on the best analysis and evidence.”

Agriculture makes up a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Promising areas for innovation to mitigate the climate impact of agriculture include livestock feed additives to reduce methane emissions, green fertilizer, crops designed to sequester carbon through their roots, enhanced rock weathering, soil-chemistry advice for farmers to reduce fertilizer-overuse, and payments for environmental services.

At the same time, farmers, particularly in low-income countries, are among those most vulnerable to climate change. There are also many promising innovations to support farmers to adapt to climate change. Examples include drought-resistant seeds, improved weather forecasts paired with digital agricultural advisory services, innovative financing systems for insurance and resilience boosting investments, and weather responsive safety nets.

Chaired by Kremer, the Innovation Commission will be led by a Secretariat that works with leading researchers, innovators, and practitioners in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The full Commission will be announced in the coming months.

“There are many promising areas for innovation, both in mitigation and adaptation,” said Michael Kremer. “Each individual innovation might not succeed, but the tremendous costs of climate change justify investing in many potential innovations. For many of the needed innovations, commercial incentives to invest fall short of the social need.”

The returns to this innovation can be huge. The estimated social rate of return to public investment in R&D is 55%, a phenomenal rate of return relative to most other investments. The benefits of the green revolution alone, in which improved crop varieties were successfully developed and spread across the world, have been larger than the costs of all development assistance ever spent.

Starting immediately and continuing for the next three years, the Innovation Commission will carefully consider the evidence and make recommendations on innovations with the potential to address the interlinked challenges of climate change, food security, and agriculture.

The Innovation Commission will also consider proposals for meta-innovations: new systems to promote innovation and shape it to meet these global challenges.

It will draw on the experience of Commissioners, including former heads of state, finance ministers, and leaders in international organizations. It will also draw on Kremer’s experience helping to co-found Development Innovation Ventures at USAID, which has generated an estimated $17 of social benefits for each $1 spent. It will also draw on his experience helping to design a $1.2 billion dollar advance market commitment for new pneumococcal vaccines. Subsequently three vaccines were developed saving an estimated 700,000 lives.

Learn more about the Commission and its growing team of contributors here.

For more information contact Imara Salas, Innovation Commission Secretariat Manager.