Why Food Systems is taking a centre stage at COP27

, 7 minute read

Quick summary: Food systems need to be an integral part of climate action if we want to limit the global warming and save our planet for the future generation. COP27 will mark a new journey in addressing the climate crisis with a focus on sustainable food systems that will provide an opportunity to not only collectively reduce the greenhouse gas emissions but also have a positive impact on the environment.

The UN Climate Change Conference which is the official name for Climate Conferences of the Parties (COP), has been taking place every year since it was held first in Berlin in 1995. The two-week summit is a meeting point for world leaders, politicians, experts and other stakeholders of action against climate change where they discuss the global climate crisis. 

The Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt will host the COP27 in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh. This year, COP27 being hosted by Egypt has an entire day focussed on Adaptation and Agriculture. 

Yes, Food and agriculture systems are finally taking the centre stage at COP27! 

The post covid woes, the conflict in Ukraine have highlighted the fragility of our food systems making Food Security a high on the political agenda. This is not all, the rising temperatures, extreme weather conditions, greater incidence of pest and diseases are significantly affecting the people and planet 

Our Fragile Food System 

Food systems account for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions with 768 million people living in hunger. In the wake of global shocks like the war in Ukraine, the pandemic and extremities in weather, there is an urgent need to transit to a nature positive, net zero food system to feed the growing population. 

According to estimates, two billion people currently suffer from malnutrition, and we need 60 % more food to feed the population by 2050 with a 73 % increase in demand for animal protein. 700 million people live in poverty and the agriculture sector is responsible for 70 % of world’s water consumption and 30% of GHG emissions. Climate is a pressing problem, and the food system is decades behind the energy sector as regards to the decarbonization efforts. Technology seems to be in the offing but is not being utilized. The extremities in weather are affecting the farmers significantly impacting their livelihoods and yields. 

Hunger is becoming a threat to the growing population and the failure to act on food transformation through mitigation and adaptation will be disastrous for millions. The prices are shooting up and exposing the fragility of our food systems. Russia and Ukraine account for 30% of international sales of wheat and with poor harvest and supply chain issues, the stocks are already low. This has an impact on edible oils too with Ukraine exporting about 50 % of sunflower oil. This is having a very serious impact on the African countries that import these products. 

The rising temperatures, increase in droughts and floods, salination, reduced soil fertility and water scarcity are disrupting agriculture production putting a pressure on food security.

Transforming Food Systems 

Transforming food systems unlocks opportunities to reduce the GHG emissions, mitigate the climate change impacts and provide solutions to food insecurity. 

Transforming the global food systems could generate $4.5 trillion annually in economic activity, helping to create a net-zero, nature positive world and also ensuring food security and social justice to all. 

Technology solutions and innovation can help our food systems become more sustainable and efficient. Farmers are a part of the solution. Boosting the ability of farmers to adapt to climate change and scale regenerative practices would be the immediate solutions. There is a need for policy reforms and technology support to empower these farmers for a safer planet. Farmers alone are not a part of the solution, all of us have a role to play.  Businesses, investors, governments, society and consumers have to do their bit to fight against this climate crisis. They would be positive agents of change to deliver the climate goals. 

Focussing on actions, strategies across the entire food value chain will offer a potential to accelerate the transition to an equitable and sustainable future. The world’s food systems have to become more productive while also reducing emissions to protect the environment. The cost of food system transformation is estimated to be about $300- $350 billion per year over the next 10 years. 

1The Global Director for the Agriculture and Food Global Practice at the World Bank says, “The scale of this challenge exceeds the capability of any single institution, For that reason, collaboration is needed to make sure the right incentives are in place and the financing is mobilized to make that happen.” 

Technology and innovations that promote climate smart agriculture can increase productivity, reduce emissions and build resilience in global food systems. 

Climate Smart Agriculture for Transformation 

  • Regenerative Food Systems 

Regenerative practices in agriculture take us beyond sustainability assuring benefit to both the people and planet, especially the billions of farmers, fishers and ranchers and preserving food safety and security. Smarter ways to produce more with less inputs in an healthy environment. 

  • Nature Based Solutions 

2Nature based solutions can deliver 37 % of climate change mitigation to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. Climate change adaptation and mitigation by conserving carbon in natural forests, grasslands and wetlands builds resilience in the ecosystem. Soil carbon sequestration, stabilizing shorelines by reducing erosion and flooding help to maintain fisheries. All this could be a key source of food security and nutrition for almost 3.2 billion people.  

  • Reducing food loss and waste 

330 to 40 % of food produced each year is lost or wasted and food is typically lost during harvest or storage. Further 1 % gets wasted at retail and by the consumer. According to FAO estimates, the food that is wasted can feed 1.26 billion hungry people every year. Investing in infrastructure, transportation and sustainable cooling should address these challenges. 

We need to shift to a food system that restores nature rather than depleting it. If we do not address this issue, we could lose another 400 million hectares of natural habitat by 2050. 

Commitment COP 26 to an Implementation COP 27 

This year’s COP’s slogan “Together for Implementation” 

Food Systems can be the greatest levers for a positive change for the people and planet. There has always been a focus on green energy but let us not forget that food system contributes to 33% of the global emissions. Agriculture is the primary driver for ecosystem degradation and there is a need to work with public and private partners to raise an alarm and bring food to the centre of the table. 

Bringing together farmers, food processors, NGOs, businesses, intergovernmental organizations and the youth, COP27 can be  a critical turning point for our food systems. A collaborative platform to showcase solutions and overcome barriers are important to justify commitment to reach the climate goals. 

There is a need to understand this vicious cycle of food and climate and address the challenges with a series of solutions in alignment with policies. An inclusive approach of feeding people the right way to save them and the planet’s future has to be adopted. Scaling nature-based solutions, productive and regenerative land practices, avoiding deforestation can deliver significant benefits for climate adaptation, preservation of biodiversity, food and nutritional security. All the actors in the system should play a positive role, and farmers in particular need to be an integral part in this system. 

World leaders need to adopt a holistic approach towards food systems connecting food security with sustainability and climate resilience. 

The first ever Food Systems Pavilion will be bringing together 15 international leaders in the food space across public, private and NGO sectors. The diversity of expertise with focused commitments should enable collaborative trade-offs, solutions and overcome barriers. 

Participating organisations include co-hosts Clim-Eat, Coalition of Action for Soil Health (CA4SH), EIT Food, Environmental Defense Fund, FOLU, Good Food Institute, Infarm, SNV and Yara International; session partners Aleph Farms, Food Tank, Just Rural Transition, One Acre Fund and Rabobank; and supporting partners World Farmers’ Organisation and YOUNGO

TraceX is also making a presence as a catalyst for change. It is harnessing the power of blockchain to build traceable, sustainable and low carbon supply chains in the food and agri sector for a healthy and a safe future. 

#CROP27 for a sustainable future.

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