The Global Alliance for the Future of Food recently released a toolkit to help countries adopt a food systems approach to climate change through Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).
“We are seeking to get all governments to recognize and start to act on the opportunity to use food systems transformation to bring emissions down,” Patty Fong, Program Director of Climate and Health & Well-being at The Global Alliance, tells Food Tank.
The toolkit is for policymakers, climate advisors, and other stakeholders. It contains a summary report, 14 country assessments, an assessment framework, and case studies. The Global Alliance aims to showcase the opportunities for governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through food systems transformation and reap additional health, environmental, and social benefits.
“There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach,” Fong explains. “Our toolkit includes a framework that any country can use to assess the gaps and opportunities for including food systems transformation in its own climate plans, enabling decision-makers to account for their local context and needs.”
NDCs represent each country’s efforts to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. NDCs also serve to track global progress on climate goals. The Global Alliance designed the Assessment Framework to help policymakers and policy advocates identify opportunities for food systems.
“Without transformation of the industrialized food systems, it will be impossible to keep global warming below the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees,” Fong tells Food Tank. Nature Climate Change research shows that changing the way people produce and consume food has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10.3 gigatons per year. That is greater than the combined emissions from global transport and residential energy use in 2019.
The Assessment Framework uses The Global Alliance’s 7 Calls to Action and guiding principles to evaluate a country’s performance in NDCs. Criteria include ensuring inclusive and participatory governance, enabling agroecology and regenerative approaches, and supporting food systems that are resilient, inclusive, and interconnected.
The assessment reveals the 14 countries evaluated incorporate aspects of food production in NDCs and promote agroecology and regenerative agriculture. Colombia and Kenya, for example, put forward the most ambitious agroecological measures. But almost all countries overlook demand-side measures involving the consumer to promote dietary changes, tackle food waste, and reduce postharvest emissions.
While China includes a target to promote greener lifestyles, the country does not mention sustainable diets. And Vanuatu, France, and South Africa are the only countries taking measures to reduce the impact of food transport.
Fong explains that many countries focus NDCs on food production practices without diversifying measures. “There is a bias towards the most efficient (cost effective and quickest) mitigation pathways, which often leads to incremental changes in the system rather than looking at how the system itself fundamentally needs to be transformed,” Fong says.
Another important reason, Fong tells Food Tank, is siloed policymaking. “All too often issues related to health, nutrition, education, gender inequality (and more) are not connected enough with environmental policymaking.”
The Global Alliance encourages cross-sector dialogue and systems thinking. They also hope to see countries value the insights of diverse stakeholders including Indigenous people, farmers, and women. They hope that this will help countries design resilient climate strategies and avoid ineffective, silver-bullet solutions.
“For policymakers in every country, ensuring NDC consultation, development and implementation requires meaningful engagement with all groups who participate in the food system—which includes those who are often underrepresented, such as indigenous peoples or women,” Fong says.
The Global Alliance plans to use the toolkit to help policymakers start or deepen their work in integrating food systems transformation into NDCs. And support those most impacted by climate change. They are also encouraging attendees of the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) to submit revised NDCs ahead of the next global meeting, COP27, taking place November 2022 in Egypt.
Fong explains to Food Tank that “with food systems transformation offering such accessible wins, with clear co-benefits including for health and sustainable livelihoods, there is no good reason not to pursue this course. And with climate impacts accelerating and the window for meaningful action closing, there is no time to lose.”
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