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COP28: Recognizing the power of food systems

The way we grow, process, package, transport and consume our food contributes over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), drives 90% of deforestation and 60% of biodiversity loss. Yet around the world, over 900 million people are food insecure. Our food systems are also highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Globally, farmers find themselves on the frontlines of the crisis, battling rising temperatures, shifting rainfall patterns, and increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

Food systems must urgently transition and transform from being a problem driving climate change, to becoming one of the main climate solutions, while also ensuring food security and wellbeing for all. Farmers, herders, fishermen and other food producers are key partners in achieving this. They are the backbone of our planet’s food systems and hold unique experiences and expertise key to tackling the challenge that lies ahead. It is through their meaningful participation and partnership that we can achieve just food system transitions, build resilience and food security, while protecting nature and mitigating future climate change.

At COP28, the central importance of agri-food systems to climate must not only be recognized, but it must also be translated into political action. Food systems must be included in Nationally Determined Contributions, and negotiators and policymakers must ensure that climate policies, planning, and budgeting reflect this and centre the needs and perspectives of farmers and those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including women and youth.

Building on Progress

At COP26 in 2021, the first steps were taken. As part of the COP26 UK Presidency’s Nature Campaign, we worked with the Presidency, the World Bank, and dozens of countries and civil society organisations to build support for the This work gave us a firm basis to raise the need for just and equitable food systems transformation on the climate agenda at COP27, and now into COP28.

Taking Action at COP28 

COP28 in Dubai has food placed at centre stage – a promising sign of hope. Many heads of state are expected to sign the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action, committing countries to take urgent action to address food systems transformation. The Non-State Actors Call to Action for Transforming Food Systems for People, Nature, and Climate will also bring together a diverse group of entities behind a shared vision to transform food and agriculture to become a key solution – not a leading driver – of the climate, nature, and food crises. For true success, however, we must see a shift from high-level discussions to time-bound, practical goals and concrete implementation of the policies that will lead to a just transition in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and its 1.5C goal, the Sharm El Sheikh 23 Adaptation Agenda, the Global Biodiversity Framework, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. They must be backed up by finance, concrete timetables and targets for reducing emissions, protecting and restoring nature, taking fossil fuels out of the food system, and cutting food loss and waste. Only action on the ground can achieve the changes needed.

A key part of making that happen is guaranteeing that food producers are an integral part of the proceedings at COP28. In partnership with Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques (AMPB), Global Alliance of Territorial Communities (GATC), Redes Chaco, the World Farmers Organization (WFO), and the World Rural Forum (WRF), Meridian Institute, which houses the JRT Secretariat, is proud to be supporting a Frontline Community Delegation (FCD) who will participate in the UNFCCC COP28 between November 30 and December 12, 2023. The FCD includes thirty leaders from the Global South that represent Indigenous Peoples, smallholders, family farmers, local community, women, and youth representatives working at the frontline of climate action, community resilience building and food systems transformation.

The full COP28 agenda from the UNFCCC