In a joint open letter to the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), 70 organisations and high-profile individuals – including Unilever, Waste & Resources Action Plan (WRAP) and EIT Food – called for food systems to be at the centre of discussions around climate change goals.
These demands build on a similar push ahead of COP27, which saw nearly 100 organisations across the food, climate and nature sectors urging the inclusion of food systems in the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture.
João Campari, global food practice leader at the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and lead signatory on the letter, laid down three ‘irrefutable facts’ when it came to food systems and their impact on the environment.
“First, that if we don't reduce food-based greenhouse gas emissions, there is no way to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees,” said Campari. “Second, no matter how much we mitigate, where and what we can grow will change, so we will have to adapt our food systems.
Closely related problems
“Third, climate change, biodiversity loss and food and nutrition insecurity are closely related problems that need a joint solution. This relies on urgent acceleration of implementation on the ground, both to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
On a national level, the signatories are also calling for food systems actions to be incorporated into National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and long-term strategies.
The letter argued that this would in turn encourage the creation and implementation of national policies to support sustainable food production, reductions in food loss and waste, a shift towards healthy and sustainable diets, the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and the scaling of healthy soil practices.
“We need to see strong action at the national level, starting with the application of food systems approaches in SSJW, NDCs and NAPs,” Campari continued. “There is a big opportunity for negotiators at COP28 to grasp this opportunity and show the leadership needed to scale food-based climate and nature action."
Last chance to make a difference?
Calls for negotiators to acknowledge the role of food systems come at what the letter called a critical point for government negotiators working on agriculture and food security who will be meeting in Rome on 30 October, the last opportunity to build consensus and drive forward “the meaningful inclusion of food systems approaches in the climate negotiations before COP28 commences at the end of November”.
Etharin Cousin, founder and chief executive of Food Systems for the Future and former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme, added: "The urgency of integrating a food systems approach within the UNFCCC at COP28 is clear. Food systems, including emission reduction beyond agricultural production, are critical for achieving Paris Agreement goals.
“The food system from farm to consumer consumption significantly contributes to the emissions driving the climate crisis. The food system is also uniquely vulnerable to climate change impacts, detrimentally affecting food security.
“The complexity of the food system demands the simultaneous funding and implementation of a diversity of solutions ensuring equitable, resilient, and just responses to climate change while securing global food security."
Meanwhile, the World Benchmarking Alliance has published new research which displays the lack of action taken by food and agriculture firms to tackle deforestation.