Our attendance at COP28

From 30 November to 12 December 2023, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food will attend the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai because we believe in the importance of multilateral negotiations to advance progress on shared global challenges. 

We have serious concerns about the UAE host’s record on climate change—in particular its opposition to the phasing out of fossil fuels and recent investments to scale up oil and gas production, despite the scientific consensus that new oil and gas exploration should have stopped two years ago. We also share human rights organizations’ concerns about issues such as freedom of expression and assembly and arbitrary detention in the country.

We respect the decision by colleagues and partners to register their dissent over the COP28 presidency and process by not engaging with the COP this year. For our organization, we decided engagement was critical to make the case that the food system agenda is not, and can not be, separate from a fossil-fuel phase out. 

We are pursuing a number of initiatives at, and in the run-up to, COP28. We recently launched a report which revealed the dependence of our industrialized food systems on fossil fuels and called for a decoupling of this relationship and a move towards regenerative and agroecological farming to accelerate effective climate action. We will also be present at, and co-sponsor, the Food Systems Pavilion in the official ‘Blue Zone’ at COP28, where we will make the case for a transformative agenda, including the need to phase out fossil fuels from our food systems. 

We are also supporting a delegation to COP28 of 40 of food system representatives from Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East, including farmers and fishers, activists, NGO leaders, and parliamentarians. We are pleased they will get to participate in, and have a chance to have their say at, the biggest annual global gathering on climate change. 

It is our belief that genuine food systems transformation will take place when diverse actions, networks, and individuals intersect across sectors and issue silos, the global and local, the macro and the micro. We aspire to help generate momentum that ultimately results in healthy, equitable, renewable, resilient, inclusive, and culturally diverse food systems. 

This is the first year in which food has been made a priority of a COP Presidency agenda. We believe this offers an opportunity to accelerate food system transformation in a way that reduces environmental impact and emissions, enhances livelihoods and equality, and improves nutrition and food security. We have been saying for years that food system transformation must be a key plank of climate action, and we are excited that this discussion is moving into the mainstream. 

We will continue to be vocal in speaking up about the political challenges, the risk of corporate influence, and the need to make much more rapid progress on decarbonization as well as adaptation and financing. Concurrently, we are committed to using COP28 and other official and unofficial gatherings throughout the year to get our views heard, as well as those of our members and allies, and to continue to promote food systems transformation.

While we recognize the UAE is unlikely to support a rapid phase out of fossil fuels, we hope that countries will make concrete commitments at COP28 to decouple food from fossil fuel use as quickly as possible, for example through promising to update their climate action plans known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This must happen as part of an overall climate change policy agenda that is ambitious, comprehensive, and backed by genuine political will.