April 20, 2024

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Food Takes Center Stage at COP28, but Funding and Action Remain Key Challenges

By Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU

The UN Climate Summit in Dubai, known as COP28, concluded with a groundbreaking focus on food security and agriculture. The summit marked the first time that food was placed on the main agenda, reflecting the growing recognition of the crucial role that food systems play in climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, experts and activists have raised concerns about the lack of concrete commitments and funding to support these efforts.

Kyle Stice, Executive Director of Pacific Islands Farmer Organizations Network, expressed disappointment at the lack of financial support from governments.

He highlighted the significant investments made by small-scale family farmers, who produce a third of the world’s food, in climate adaptation.

Stice emphasized that “adaptation finance is not charity but rather an investment in feeding humanity.”

He called on governments to raise the necessary funds and ensure that they reach grassroots organizations where they can have the greatest impact.

Wanjira Mathai, Managing Director for Africa and Global Partnerships at World Resources Institute, acknowledged the progress made in placing food and nature on the agenda but cautioned that firm commitments must be followed by tangible actions.

Wanjira Mathai, Managing Director for Africa and Global Partnerships at World Resources Institute

She stressed the need for increased finance and clear guidelines to avoid harmful spending. Mathai emphasized that supporting grassroots communities, including smallholder farmers, should be a priority.

Ruth Davis, Senior Associate at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment in Oxford, celebrated the formal outcome of halting and reversing deforestation by 2030, as well as the pledge from 150 countries to incorporate food in their new climate plans. However, she emphasized the importance of funding to scrutinize global greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector effectively. Davis called for action to deliver on financial commitments.

Lili Fuhr, Director of the Fossil Economy Program at the Center for International Environmental Law, highlighted a significant oversight at COP28—the neglect of agrochemicals as a crucial aspect in combating the fossil economy. Fuhr pointed out that food-related plastics and fertilizers contribute nearly 40% of petrochemical production, which is intertwined with the fossil fuel industry. She criticized the influence of lobbyists with vested interests and called for addressing the link between food and fossil fuels.

Key outcomes from COP28 related to food include the Emirates Declaration, which commits 158 countries to integrating food into their national climate plans. While voluntary and lacking in details, this marks a significant step in putting food on the climate agenda. The Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation, comprising Brazil, Rwanda, Norway, and Sierra Leone, outlined what an effective climate plan should entail.

However, there are concerns that the Global Stocktake, which guides countries’ new climate plans, does not adequately address emissions from food and agriculture, despite their significant contribution to greenhouse gases. The Global Goal on Adaptation aims to make food systems climate-resilient but fails to mention the critical role of small-scale family farmers who lack sufficient finance.

The FAO roadmap provides a starting point for governments to address hunger and reduce emissions from food. However, it needs revision to incorporate dietary changes as a means of reducing emissions and align with global goals for nature conservation.

As COP28 comes to a close, the focus on food and agriculture is a positive development. However, urgent action is needed to secure funding, implement concrete measures, and ensure that the voices of small-scale farmers and grassroots communities are heard in the fight against climate change.

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