Food systems and climate action: 3 recommendations for COP27
Transforming the world’s food systems represents the single greatest opportunity to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and build more sustainable, resilient, and just communities.
From the big picture, global view to localized, context-specific solutions, the Global Alliance has spent the past several years compiling evidence in support of food systems transformation. It’s to this body of knowledge that we turn in the lead-up to COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.
Our present-day food and agriculture system perpetuates a damaging status quo. As the UN Secretary-General pointed out in his 2021 UN Food Systems Summit address, food systems produce one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, contribute to 80% of biodiversity loss, and use up to 70% of the world’s freshwater.
The industrial food system not only makes it impossible to deliver on the Paris Agreement target to limit global warming to 1.5°C – it also inhibits our ability to adapt to and recover from future climate disasters.
The time is now to move towards sustainable food systems. Building on a letter and call to action the Global Alliance co-authored with other philanthropic organizations, here are three critical recommendations we urge delegates to take forward at COP27.
Recommendation 1: Compel all countries to include food systems in their nationally determined contributions
One glimmer of hope from COP26 in Glasgow was that all countries agreed to revisit and strengthen their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). This was in addition to the routine update of the climate action plan that happens every five years.
However, in October 2022, the UN shared that just 24 countries had submitted new or updated climate plans since the previous year’s convening, deeming the lack of urgency “disappointing.” Delegates must encourage and facilitate updates to the NDCs to include food systems.
To offer a roadmap for what’s possible, the Global Alliance analyzed the NDCs of 14 countries around the world. Accompanying that publication is a practical guide that policymakers and interested stakeholders can use to assess food systems in NDCs – a useful starting point for integrating comprehensive food systems approach into future climate policies.
Recommendation 2: Acknowledge the need for loss and damage finance – and then use it to finance food systems transformation
Floods, droughts, wildfires, and heatwaves that used to be once-in-a-generation occurrences are becoming an alarming norm.
For more than three decades, the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change have called on rich nations to create a facility for loss and damage finance. On November 6, loss and damage funding was officially added to the COP27 agenda, however, securing financial commitments from wealthy countries is key. Negotiations must now ensure that loss and damage funds build on the finance pledged for mitigation and adaptation, and enable communities to begin recovering from the devastation already caused by climate change.
A finance facility dedicated to addressing the long-term implications of climate change is critical for reconstruction and resilience. Sustainable food systems have a role to play in both, ensuring countries are better prepared in the aftermath of natural disasters (with locally-grown, nutritious food that can be used for humanitarian aid) and by using approaches like agroecology and regenerative agriculture to safeguard soils, water sources, biodiversity, and more.
Our new analysis found that, though food systems contribute a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, action-supporting food systems transitions only receive only 3% of climate finance. Loss and damage finance – combined with existing funding streams – should be invested in food systems measures that build community resilience and adaptation capacity to reduce the intensity of future climatic episodes.
Despite their transformative impact on mitigation, adaptation, and resilience-building, food systems-related priorities are commonly underestimated and underfunded in NDCs, especially in developing countries. In line with recommendation 1, policymakers can and must do more to identify, quantify, and then direct loss and damage financing (and other investment) towards actions at the food-climate nexus.
Recommendation 3: Direct finance towards locally led, context-specific food systems measures
In our experience, we’ve found that food systems transformation is most effective when it conforms to a set of core principles. We can look to cases around the world where countries are making progress on integrating principled, context-specific food systems measures into their NDCs.
One example is Colombia. The Latin American country’s NDC includes measures to promote agroecology and regenerative approaches, as well as to protect, conserve, and recover natural resources and ecosystems. It also specifies measures to promote diversified food production that is adapted to different microclimates and sociocultural contexts. Though there remain many areas for improvement, this NDC framing is flexible enough to consider the diversity of the country while also beginning to outline the importance of local food systems.
NDCs should also look to food systems measures that increase and restore local biodiversity and seed systems. The importance of agricultural diversity in climate action and food security offers a natural bridge linking COP27 discussions with the upcoming World Biodiversity Summit in Montreal, Canada, in December.
Program Director, Climate and Health & Well-being
Will you be attending COP27? The Global Alliance will be part of in-person and virtual sessions at COP27. Learn more about them here.
We are also sponsoring the participation of more than 30 representatives from the Global South to attend the summit. Thanks to the financial support of our philanthropic network, these individuals will be speaking on various panels and sharing their knowledge and experiences at this global forum.
If you are a journalist covering COP27, Global Alliance spokespeople are available for comment and interviews. Please contact: Georgie Barber
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