Food and agriculture systems are on the agenda at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP27) this year for the first time. In addition to more than 300 live events, new reports from WWF, IPES-Food, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) are helping to prioritize food systems at these critical conversations in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
“Only with a food systems approach can we halt and reverse nature loss,” WWF writes in its manifesto for the COP27, Great Food Puzzle: Translating Global Goals into National Level Action.
If all other sectors managed to rapidly decarbonize, business-as-usual food-based emissions would still use nearly the whole carbon budget for a 2°C future, according to WWF. But food systems vary between countries, so global targets need to be translated into local contexts and account for social, political, and environmental dimensions.
The Great Food Puzzle presents an in-depth analysis of four countries, outlining 20 transformation levers that other countries can implement to meet critical climate goals. These actions include supporting smallholder farmers, promoting traditional foods, developing nature-positive supply chains, increasing diversity, and more.
Shifting diets has the greatest potential to help meet emissions reduction goals, according to WWF, “but only a combination of actions can keep global warming within 1.5°C.”
WWF released another report with the advisory company Climate Focus to assess Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Unlocking and Scaling Climate Solutions in Food Systems. Researchers found that although more countries are including food in their national climate commitments, 98 percent are failing to take the necessary action to meet climate goals. The authors stress the importance of holistic approaches and quantified, measurable targets for NDCs, as well as the inclusion of marginalized communities.
“While numbers have increased, less than half of all updated NDCs mention Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. Still fewer mention the importance of smallholder farmers,” the authors write. “Oftentimes, these are the communities directly responsible for implementing solutions.”
Meanwhile, IPES-Food argues that leaders must reject food systems solutions that lack definitions, exploit ambiguity, and mask agribusiness as usual.
“Getting food systems on the global agenda isn’t enough: we must ensure inclusive global processes based on a shared understanding of food system transformation and a comprehensive (socially and environmentally) sustainable food system vision,” authors write in a report from IPES-Food, Smoke & Mirrors: Examining competing framings of food system sustainability.
The report analyzes three concepts that are growing in popularity in global conversations surrounding food and agriculture: agroecology, nature-based solutions, and regenerative agriculture. While often grouped together, these three concepts “can imply very different things,” according to IPES-Food. For example, the term “nature-based solutions” is gaining traction, but authors write that “agroecology” offers a more comprehensive pathway toward food system sustainability.
“In our study of international negotiations, undefined terms like ‘nature-based solutions’ are being deployed to keep the focus on vague aspirations—it’s really just another form of greenwashing,” says Molly Anderson, IPES-Food expert and Chair in Food Studies at Middlebury College. “True food system solutions emerge through global, deliberative, democratic processes, and agroecology is the best solution that meets that criteria.”
As a whole, food systems receive only 3 percent of public climate finance, despite accounting for one-third of all global emissions, according to the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. And seventy percent of current Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) lack adequate detail on the funding needs for climate action in food systems. This hinders the mobilization of climate finance, the Global Alliance writes in Untapped Opportunities: Climate Financing for Food Systems Transformation.
Untapped Opportunities presents the case for food systems as a climate finance priority, including recommendations for action. Authors argue that investing in food systems transformation is a cost-effective way for the climate finance community to achieve huge emissions reductions.
“Solutions to reduce the climate impacts of food systems already exist and require increased support by the global finance community,” writes the Global Alliance. “Increasing finance to food systems is of urgent importance.”
Finally, the IATP and GRAIN released The Fertiliser Trap: The rising cost of farming’s addiction to chemical fertilisers, which explores the true cost of chemical fertilizers globally—from the financial burden for farmers and public budgets to the severe environmental and health impacts and long-term risks to food security.
According to The Fertiliser Trap, the world’s largest fertilizer companies are making record profits as farmers struggle to cope with increased prices. Nine of the world’s largest fertilizer companies are expected to make US$57 billion in profit in 2022, up more than fourfold from two years ago, while nine developing countries are on course to pay three times more in 2022 than they did in 2020.
“The era of cheap fertilizers is over, and the costs have become too much to bear,” the report authors write.
Many of these partners and more have organized a series of events at the COP27 to bring global visionaries, emerging leaders, and renowned experts together in open dialogue. Discussions will cover new, groundbreaking reports in addition to other topics including nature-positive, climate-resilient agricultural practices; women empowerment; the role of young farmers; food businesses working toward carbon neutrality; True Cost Accounting; sustainable consumption and diets; and more.
Follow the COP27 Food Pavilion Discussions Live
Clim-Eat, EIT Food, The Food and Land Use Coalition, The Good Food Institute, and more are partnering for the Food Systems Pavilion, highlighting actions, strategies, and solutions across the entire food value chain that have the potential to drive the transformation towards healthier, more resilient, and more equitable food systems.
CGIAR, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, and The Rockefeller Foundation are collaborating on the Food and Agriculture Pavilion to show how agrifood systems are part of the solution to the climate crisis. The program brings together government and community leaders, farmers, academics, and other experts who use innovative solutions to help countries take effective climate action.
The Food4Climate Pavilion, hosted by ProVeg, IPES-Food, Compassion in World Farming, A Well-Fed World, and Four Paws, is focusing on a just transition for food and farming systems. The program explores proven climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions—including the shift towards plant-rich diets, adopting sustainable and resilient agricultural practices, and reducing food loss and waste.
The WWF Pavilion is hosting a wide array of events on topics ranging from food systems to finance, forests, energy, and nature-based solutions. WWF has also compiled a list of COP27 advocacy and policy resources in addition to its food manifesto.
And the IFAD Pavilion, hosted by the International Fund for Agricultural Development, is amplifying the voices of small-scale producers to promote their role in climate change responses and resilient food systems.
For full event details, visit each of the pavilion’s websites above or follow along a combined schedule HERE, courtesy of The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and HERE, courtesy of WWF and members of the Global Action Platform for Sustainable Consumption and Diets.