Food Tank’s Dispatch from the U.N. Climate Change Conference is a special newsletter series running daily during COP27. To make sure it lands straight in your inbox and to be among the first to receive it, subscribe to Food Tank’s newsletter now by clicking here.
I’ll be honest: I was moved to tears yesterday, talking to the young activists who are the future of our global food system.
Yesterday was Youth Day here at COP27. I’ve been vocal about the need to respect the voices of those who will inherit the future of the food system. And luckily, they’re making their voices heard more powerfully than ever.
“I want the world leaders to treat the climate crisis as a crisis,” said Vanessa Nakate, a climate activist from Uganda and Founder of the Rise up Climate Movement. Nakate and others created a video telling leaders what they want to see from COP27. I encourage you to watch it on Twitter HERE.
To spotlight the youth role in sustainable food systems, Food Tank’s own programming here at #FoodCOP27 got underway yesterday. I moderated a panel in partnership with the World Farmers Organization called “The Future Is Now: How to Unlock Young Farmers’ Potential for Sustainable Future Food Systems.” We heard from Roy Steiner, from The Rockefeller Foundation; Arnold Puech d’Alissac and Khoushbou Sewraj, both from the World Farmers Organization; and Dr. Mark Smith of the International Water Management Institute; along with Xiye Bastida, a youth activist from the Otomi-Toltec Indigenous Community and the Re-Earth Initiative, and Ayisha Siddiqa, a Pakistani climate justice youth advocate from Polluters Out.
Here at COP27, there’s a youth pavilion for the first time. Youth delegations have been taking their advocacy to the U.N. in monumental ways. But it’s not enough to simply invite youth to these events. Our young leaders need to be involved in serious discussions with policymakers, they told me during the panel yesterday, “if we’re truly going to save the world.” None of us knows everything—and the youngest among us are the first to admit that. But they need access to mentorship. They need financial investment in resources. They need elders to respect them.
Speaking with these incredible young leaders, as I mentioned, I was overcome with emotion. I was particularly inspired by the ways Ayisha, Xiye, and Khoushbou described transformation needing activism, advocacy, and true leadership. Change will come, Ayisha told me, when we couch our ideas in love.
Here are some other important takeaways from COP27 negotiations and discussions:
As we’ve mentioned, this COP is unique in its attention to food and ag issues, which are gaining global attention. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, for example, is planning to launch an initiative this year to tackle on-farm emissions as part of the urgent need to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. FAO Deputy Director Zitouni Ould-Dada talked to Reuters about the agency’s plans.
COP negotiations are putting due pressure on world leaders, too. The U.S. has been reluctant to take meaningful national action, and European leaders have been calling on President Joe Biden, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—who appeared at COP—and others. In the New York Times, Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School of Diplomacy at Tufts University, said this:
“I hear African leaders say: ‘We’ve always understood the Congress is difficult. But do the American people not understand what’s happening to the planet?’” Kyte told the paper.
Today’s another big day here at #FoodCOP27. Right now, I’m on my way to the Food and Agriculture Pavilion to moderate a discussion with WWF on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture and—more broadly—why we need to widen the mandates of civil organizations to deliver better outcomes for climate, people, and nature alike. That starts at 8:30AM EET today (1:30AM ET Friday morning, 10:30PM PT Thursday night), with Alice Ruhweza, director of WWF Africa; H.E. Dr. Yasmine Fouad, Egypt’s Minister of the Environment; H.E. Fridolin Besungu Cardinal Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa, Maria Helena Samedo of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization; Mercedita Sombilla of the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines; and Javier Mateo-Vega of CGIAR and CIAT.
This afternoon, at 3:00PM EET (8:00AM ET, 5:00AM PT) as a UNFCC Side Event, I’ll be moderating a series of conversations on managing climate risks and externalities that arise from the food system. We’ll talk with Zitouni Ould-Dada of the FAO; Jeroom Remmers of the TAPP Coalition; Roy Steiner of The Rockefeller Foundation; Helena Wright of the Jeremy Coller Foundation / FAIRR; Mark Gough of Capitals Coalition, Jeremy Coller of Coller Capital; Gunhild Stordalen of EAT; Ertharin Cousin of Food Systems for the Future; and Berry Marttin of Rabobank.
Later this evening, I’ll be joining Resilient Cities Network, Media RED, and The Rockefeller Foundation for a private screening of “Food 2050.” The film points a camera at 10 of the world’s most optimistic, audacious visionaries seeking to heal the planet and our bodies. At the screening, I’ll be moderating a panel with Tom Leach of Media RED, Sara Farley of The Rockefeller Foundation, Rupa Marya, physician and the author of “Inflamed,” and Matte Wilson of Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative. And afterward, at a reception with a menu by celebrity chef Bobby Chinn, we’ll hear from Lauren Sorkin of Resilient Cities Network; Rania al-Mashat, the Egyptian Minister of International Cooperation; Rajiv Garodia of Visa; Liz Yee of The Rockefeller Foundation; and Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Programme.
What I’m Thinking About as COP27 Negotiations Continue:
- Data shows that fossil fuel lobbyists outnumber nearly every national delegation here at COP27, which underscores just how loud our voices for change need to be. There are more than 600 lobbyists here from fossil fuel industries—that’s more than the number of folks here representing the ten countries most impacted by climate change and 25 percent more than last year’s COP. (Read more on Euronews).
- Our colleagues at The Rockefeller Foundation, however, are working to highlight Indigenous and regenerative practices during COP27 with more than US$11 million in grants. This funding will go toward organizations working to scale these traditional and sustainable practices globally. “Continuing to rely solely on conventional approaches cannot generate the profound shifts needed to improve food systems,” said Roy Steiner, Senior Vice President for the Food Initiative at the Foundation. (Read more HERE).
Powerful Quotes from Today’s Discussions:
- “It’s still very much an intellectual discussion to say young people should get into farming. How? Where do they start? And investing in extension services has got to be one of the most important [things].” — Wanjira Mathai, Managing Director for Africa and Global Partnerships at the World Resources Institute
- “What I want from more leaders this COP is for them to really include youth as stakeholders, not just as tokens.” — Xiye Bastida, youth activist from the Otomi-Toltec Indigenous Community and the Re-Earth Initiative
Articles like the one you just read are made possible through the generosity of Food Tank members. Can we please count on you to be part of our growing movement? Become a member today by clicking here.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Mcgregor, Unsplash