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Food & Agriculture Spotlight: COP28’s Historic Emphasis on Climate Action

From production to consumption, the global food system accounts for roughly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The spotlight on food and agriculture at COP28, held in the UAE, has been unprecedented. On the back of the UAE leaders urging participating nations to emphasize the ‘Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda’ for the nearly two-week-long event, governments have been urged to participate in a historic agreement targeting emissions from their food and agriculture sectors.

Groundbreaking Commitment: The Emirates Declaration:

At the beginning of the conference, which is concluding today, more than 134 countries officially endorsed the Emirates Declaration on Agriculture, Food Systems, and Climate Action at COP28 — a groundbreaking commitment and the first-of-its-kind to adapt and ‘transform’ food systems as a crucial component of addressing the climate crisis. 

On December 10, Mariam Almheiri, the COP28 Food Systems Lead, stated that signatories had gone up to 152 nations, officially pledging their commitment to the declaration.

The Environmental Impact of Our Food Choices:

The food we consume and the methods employed in its production impact our health and the environment. From cultivation and processing to transportation, distribution, preparation, consumption, and, at times, disposal, each stage in the food chain generates greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change.

Global Food System’s Climate Contribution:

The global food system contributes to approximately one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, from production to consumption. 

Yet, it’s active mention at the annual climate conference “has largely been factored out of discussions at the highest level of climate negotiations,” says Juliette Tronchon, spearheading the Food4Climate Pavilion at COP28.

“The key here is public education and awareness. We need to raise awareness among the public about how their food is produced, who produces it, and what the footprint of their food is. 

Only then can they make informed and ethical food choices,” says Angel Flores, international external affairs manager at World Animal Protection.

Food and Agriculture in the Climate Crisis Limelight:

After years of being overlooked, the pivotal role of food and agriculture in the climate crisis has finally taken somewhat of a center stage at COP28. According to Flores, “There’s still a long way to go, but the doors are now open.”

Characterized as a ‘historic moment’ for food systems and agriculture at the ongoing climate change summit in Dubai, some initiatives and milestones stood out to raise public awareness, actively driving the conversation around food and climate action forward.

Food for Thought — and Climate Action:

The conference hosted over 50 events covering various aspects of food, food systems, agriculture, and related issues, including a first-of-its-kind spotlight on plant-based lifestyles as a possible and viable solution to battle the impact of food consumption and production on climate change.

Diverse Pavilions Advocating Sustainable Eating:

Led by global entities such as ProVeg International, World Animal Protection, Upfield, and other leading global actors, Climate4Food Pavilion, running for the second year in a row, represents a unique coming together of a diverse range of private and third-sector organizations united in their advocacy for the transformation of food systems.

The Role of Government Entities and Behavior Change:

“The lack of importance the government has placed on the role the food systems plays in solving the net zero puzzle sends the wrong signal to consumers, businesses, and industry,” says Tronchon, youth engagement advocate, ProVeg International. 

While government entities must play a pivotal role in behavior change through policy implementation, Food4Climate Pavilion also seeks to raise awareness about the importance of shifting towards a more sustainable diet and individual behavior change in the transition of food systems. “Collective action is essential,” she adds.

A Recurring Space for Food System Dialogue:

The launch of this pavilion last year, alongside other food systems pavilions, has been groundbreaking in driving the conversation around the impact of food on climate change ahead. 

“This year, the conversation has become bigger and better than ever, with Food Day and Food Systems Transformation being on the agenda,” says Sally Smith, Chief Sustainability Officer at Upfield. 

“We finally have a recurring space where people can come together and talk about the challenges we’re faced with at different ends of the food spectrum and the solutions going forward.”

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