Food and Agriculture at COP28

Several major announcements were made during Food, Agriculture and Water Day at COP28, demonstrating that many stakeholders and individual governments are committed to taking bold food-based climate action and restoring critical freshwater ecosystems.

Food and Agriculture for Climate Justice action by Climate Action Network International the UN Climate Change Conference COP28 at Expo City Dubai on December 11, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by COP28 / Neville Hopwood)

Joao Campari, Global Food Practice Leader,  from the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) said: “Food systems transformation has certainly been a core agenda item at COP28. What started as a few voices on the margins of COPs just a couple of years ago has crescendo to a summit-wide day of pledges and announcements. The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action has now been signed by more than 150 countries. WWF welcomes their commitments and particularly applauds the governments of Brazil, Norway, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and Rwanda who have launched the Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation…We are equally encouraged by the fact more than 200 non-state actors have committed to accelerating transformation – while we need leadership from governments, implementation will take collaboration

Vegan Buddhist advocates for plant-based eating to Emirati high school students at COP28 in Dubai. Photo by Rabbi Yonatan Neril

across the whole food system.”

More than 100 world leaders at this year’s United Nations climate summit agreed to make their farm and food systems a key part of their plans to fight climate change, seeking improvements in a sector that accounts for about a third of planet-warming emissions. The agriculture declaration signed by world leaders at the beginning of COP28 is a loose pledge, not a binding agreement. With livestock accounting for over half of the emissions in the food system, meat and dairy have been at the forefront of many agriculture conversations at COP28 in Dubai. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization added to those conversations with an updated report that included ways to cut those livestock emissions.

“You don’t meet the climate goals without doing something in the system, and in this case on livestock,” said Francesco Tubiello, a senior statistician with the FAO who worked on the report.

Food systems were the focus of some demonstrators as well. Lei Chu, a vegan activist, said it’s important for people to consider how what they eat matters to the world.

“If this action is killing our earth we have to change it,” she said.

COP28 UAE was unique in offering what they called the first 1.5° C-aligned menu at a COP conference, as part of its objective of making the conference carbon-neutral.  It is anticipated that 250,000 meals would be served every day of the 12-day event.

When the dust settles on COP28, encouraging commitments must immediately translate to impactful action on the ground and in the water and no consensus has yet been reached on a new draft of the Global Stocktake and there is a concerning possibility that meaningful action on food will not make the final agreement.

COP28 Food Systems Resource

The COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit  serves as a key resource for national policymakers and decision-makers aiming to accelerate and align national efforts on climate action and food and agriculture system transformation by (1) providing a summary of priority actions, (2) giving an overview of good examples of NDCs and NAPs in how they integrate agriculture and food system measures, and (3) providing overview of existing initiatives, platforms, and tools that can help governments in developing and implementing agriculture and food system policy measures as part of their NDCs and NAPs.

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