Fresh calls for food to be central to climate dialogue

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Petmal
Image: Petmal

Related tags Environment Sustainability

Most countries are yet to realise the full potential of including food systems in their climate action plans, according to a new report calling for food and agriculture to be at the heart of discussions.

A group of leading international food organisations has published a report with six pathways for policymakers to accelerate “urgent action”​ to transform food systems. 

It reiterates that global food systems account for over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions.

On our current trajectory, emissions from food systems alone will exceed 1.5°C between 2051-2063.

The report is from the newly formed Food Systems Partnership which includes EIT Food, the Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), Clim-Eat, Environmental Defense Fund, Carrier and Coalition of Action for Soil Health. This group evolved from the first ever Food Systems Pavilion which hosted two weeks of programming at COP27 and campaigned for the inclusion of a food systems approach within the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, a special decision under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that aims to recognise the unique potential of the agriculture sector in addressing the climate change.

The ‘Pathways for food systems transformation’ report was launched at the recent the Bonn Climate Change Conference which is expected to lay the groundwork for the global negotiations at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai later this year.

The report admits there has been a positive trend in the recognition of food systems as part of national climate solutions, but reveal that most countries are yet to realise the full potential of including action on food systems in their climate strategies. 

For example, despite food and agriculture being recognised as the largest sources of environmental degradation, there is no mention of food or food systems in any of the four Global Goals for 2050 outlined in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, which was launched at the COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal last year and which includes four goals and 23 targets to be achieved by 2030.

Although the update to the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture negotiated at COP27 did see for the first time the inclusion of the term ‘food systems’ in the final text, Dr Lucy Wallace, Chief of Staff at EIT Food, which is serving as the Secretariat for the Food Systems Partnership, said: “COP27 failed to fully recognise the role of food systems in strengthening climate adaptation, mitigation and resilience. The Bonn Climate Change Conference is a critical moment to elevate food systems within global climate negotiations. This year we must go further and faster.”​ 

Wiebe Smit, Policy & Impact Innovator at Clim-Eat, a member of the Food Systems Partnership, added: “Despite a hopeful start at the Bonn negotiations not much progress has been made on actual steps towards implementation of climate action for the benefit of food systems.

As a global community, we need to start walking the talk and show willingness and dedication to come to solutions quickly, even if this may mean that we have to compromise on our individual gains a little bit.”

The Food Systems Partnership is calling on the COP28 Presidency to prioritise the role of food systems. In the new Pathways report we are advocating for international efforts to increase ambition, urgency and scale of action. We cannot achieve any climate targets without incorporating and implementing a more holistic transformation of our food systems.” 

The report outlines six calls to action:

Enhance collaboration and inclusion at all levels and across all parts of our food systems.

Enhance a transition to healthy, nutritious and sustainable diets for all.

Embrace agricultural reform and nature-positive production.

Increase action against food loss and waste

Transform financial mechanisms to support sustainable, equitable food systems.

Champion consistent, accurate monitoring and reporting to track global progress on implementation

The partnership plans to attract a ‘diverse community of supporters’ and establish a new ‘Producers Hub’ led by food producers at COP28.

Katie McCoshan, Policy and International Engagement Manager at FOLU, said: “At COP27 we focused on building connections and cultivating a shared food and land use systems agenda within the community. This year, we seek to forge deeper partnerships and put them into practice at COP28 as well as at COP29 and beyond. We are exploring who else needs to be included in a systems-wide approach to food and land use systems transformation. This approach is critical not just to the climate agenda, but to health, livelihoods, energy, nature and water. The only option is to work together, including within the formal UNFCCC processes.”

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