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The true cost of our food and agriculture systems goes well beyond what we pay for groceries.
Food and agriculture production—including public health costs, environmental damage, unjust and inequitable labor conditions, and much more—costs us nearly US$30 trillion per year.
“We are paying for the food system. We are paying for it in the form of diabetes treatment. We are paying for it in biodiversity loss,” Sara Farley of The Rockefeller Foundation told me on Saturday.
At least 93 percent of member states mention food in their NDCs in some capacity, yet only 3 percent of climate finance is going into food systems.
Our discussions at COP27 this weekend reminded me that while we should celebrate having food systems on the stage at global forums like the COP, we cannot stop there. Money and resources need to reach those working on the ground—especially smallholder farmers, women, Indigenous communities, and others that are too often underrepresented or forgotten in climate conversations.
“Billions of dollars are pledged, but the money is never ending where it’s needed. Very often it gets stuck in structures, and farmers—especially smallholder farmers, women—don’t know how to access it,” says Martina Fleckenstein, Global Policy Director at WWF International.
On Saturday, we discussed how to form a more unified voice around what a sustainable food future looks like. Dr. Lee Recht of Aleph Farms says that, right now, “we’re all working in siloes in parallel instead of actually working together.”
Speakers across panels emphasized the importance of representing a diversity of backgrounds, cultures, and traditions. “We need community voices,” says Farley. “We need to hear from Indigenous people, we need smallholder farmers, large-scale farmers. All of them need a voice.”
Million Belay, Coordinator at the Alliance for Food Sovereignty for Africa, highlighted how holistic and integrated approaches to food production, like agroecology, are inherently more inclusive.
“Agroecology builds resilience into the system,” says Belay. “It’s based on enriching the soil, bringing the communities together, planting diverse crops, and basing future initiatives on the culture and practices of people.”
Here are some other important takeaways from COP27 negotiations and discussions:
Over the weekend, Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of COP27, launched the Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace initiative (CRSP).
The initiative is based on four pillars, in which sustainable food systems are specifically highlighted: (1) strengthening the climate adaptation and peacebuilding nexus, (2) sustaining peace through climate-resilient food systems, (3) advancing durable solutions to the climate-displacement nexus, and (4) accelerating climate finance for sustaining peace.
The importance of climate-resilient food systems is especially clear among developing nations and rural populations, where small-scale producers are already strained.
“We need to help rural populations build their resilience to extreme weather events and adapt to a changing climate. If not, we only go from one crisis to the next. Small-scale farmers work hard to grow food for us in tough conditions,” Sabrina Dhowre Elba, UN Goodwill Ambassador for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said during a press conference.
On Saturday, Mexico pledged to cut its emissions by 35 percent by 2030, up from an earlier target of 22 percent, making it one of the few countries at this COP to improve its targets. (Read more on Bloomberg.)
Meanwhile, scientists warned that there are limits to climate adaptation, recommending that loss and damage—or the impacts of extreme weather so severe that countries cannot adapt to them—become a larger part of the COP27 conversations.
“Adaptation actions are still crucial and are critical to upgrade small-scale, fragmented, and reactive efforts. But the potential to adapt to climate change is not limitless. And they will not prevent all losses and damage that we’ve seen,” says the UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Simon Stiell.
U.S. Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry said that the U.S. is “totally supportive” of discussing how to address loss and damage, which has become a contentious issue at the COP. “We want to engage,” says Kerry. (Read more on The Guardian.)
I’m kicking off Monday morning by talking about sustainable governance and management interventions in water and aquatic food systems to ensure food and nutrition security in the face of climate change (Food Systems Pavilion, 11:00AM EET, 4:00AM ET, 1:00AM PT). Speakers include Rose Labreche, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture; and Darko Manakovski, the Global Water Partnership. (Live stream HERE.)
We’re screening the “Food 2050” film at the Food4Climate Pavilion (2:00PM EET, 7:00 ET, 4:00AM PT) followed by a post-screening panel discussion with Sara Farley, The Rockefeller Foundation; Rupa Marya, Physician and Author of Inflamed; Matte Wilson, Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative (SFSI); and Andrew York, Media RED. (Live stream HERE.)
And we’ll dive right into three very special panels on Gender Equality & Women Empowerment in Food Systems immediately following that, with an incredible lineup of women leaders: Women Leading the Future of Food with Chief Caleen Sisk, Spiritual Leader and Hereditary Chief, Winnemem Wintu Tribe; Shannon Cosentino-Roush, Finless Foods; Katie McCoshan, Food and Land Use Coalition, World Resources Institute; Theresa Lieb, GreenBiz; and Jennifer Stojkovic, Vegan Women Summit. Women in Food, Climate, Tech, and Finance with Dr. Lee Recht, Aleph Farms; Patty Fong, Global Alliance for the Future of Food; and Rane Cortez, The Nature Conservancy. And finally, Rethinking Nutrition with Nicole Pita, IPES-Food; Juliette Tronchon, ProVeg International; Eirini Pitsilidi, Compassion for World Farming; and Satya S. Tripathi, Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet. (Beginning at 4:10PM EET, 9:10AM ET, 6:10AM PT live stream HERE.)
If you’re on the ground in Egypt, we would love for you to come and say hello! And for those tuning in remotely, thank you so much for following along. Tune in for any of the conversations that might fit your schedule, and don’t forget to share your reactions using #FoodCOP27.
What I’m Thinking About as COP27 Negotiations Continue:
- The food cold chain is often overlooked, but it has a significant impact on the environment. Emissions from food loss and waste due to lack of refrigeration totaled an estimated 2 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. (Read more on FAO News.)
- At COP15 Copenhagen, developed nations pledged to channel $100 billion a year to less wealthy nations by 2020, to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further rises in temperature. That promise was not kept. Now, “the choice is between adapting or starving,” says Dina Saleh, the Regional Director of IFAD. (Read more on UN News.)
Powerful Quotes from Today’s Discussions:
- “Women form an integral part of the entire food system, from production to household consumption to disposal of food.” — Mansi Shah, Research, Documentation and Design Consultant, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
- “We should not be waiting for a crisis to discuss food and agriculture and linkages to climate and other issues.” — Saswati Bora, Global Director of Regenerative Food Systems, The Nature Conservancy
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Photo courtesy of Naseem Buras, Unsplash