'Huge hope' for Cop28 leaders' pledge on food and climate

Emirates Declaration to be launched on first day of summit in Dubai

Farming is regarded as a contributor to global warming, deforestation and loss of biodiversity. AFP
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Experts have welcomed plans by Cop28 organisers for an Emirates Declaration that will rally countries to shake up their food and agricultural systems.

The declaration is expected to be unveiled on December 1, the first full day of the summit, when heads of state and government will be in the UAE.

It will call on countries to put food at the heart of the climate agenda by linking their agricultural policies to their national emissions and biodiversity plans.

Farming is regarded as part of the climate puzzle because it leads to deforestation and land degradation in addition to contributing to global warming, prompting calls for a rethink of global food production.

“Our food systems unfortunately today are failing us,” said Morgan Gillespy, director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, which is running a food policy pavilion at Cop28.

The Emirates Declaration will “raise the floor of ambition”, she said, with the UAE presidency urging countries to get behind the pledge.

Ms Gillespy said the summit, which has a day dedicated to food, agriculture and water as part of a themed schedule, would see countries making promises on food and climate that “they’ve not done before”.

“If they deliver on it, the outcomes are going to be that we’re healthier, we’re more resilient, we’re more food secure,” she said.

David Nabarro, a global health expert and former World Health Organisation official, said the net costs of food production for the climate and environment could amount to $2 trillion.

“Something has to be done if we’re not going to have more and more countries being bankrupted by the costs of food,” he said when asked by The National about prospects for the Emirates Declaration.

“There is huge hope that this will lead to a rethink on policies around food from the perspectives of ministries of finance, who are going to say that they are so concerned about the indirect costs that they want something done about it.

“The climate context is going to, we believe, trigger a much broader way of thinking about food.”

Another ambition is that Cop28 will light the torch for reshaping food and agriculture policy that will be passed to future summits.

Announcements in Dubai have been co-ordinated with Brazil, which will host Cop30, said Ignace Beguin Billecocq, who works for the UN’s official climate champions. The host of Cop29 has not yet been chosen.

“Food and nature is expected to be central in Brazil so we are making a real effort to ensure that we really create an arc between Cop28, Cop29 and Cop30 in Brazil,” he said.

The leaders’ declaration will be accompanied by a call to action on what needs to be done in the private sector to align farming with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

As countries prepare to finish a “global stocktake” of progress towards 1.5°C, Ms Gillespy called for food systems to be included in the final text agreed to by all 198 parties.

“The stocktake only happens every five years and so we need to ensure that the decision this year recognises the importance of food systems,” she said.

“Imagine the power of this cover decision saying, 'there is a huge gap on food systems, we’re not talking about it enough we have to change this for the next five years so that we can have a better outcome for the next stocktake in 2028’.”

Updated: November 21, 2023, 12:07 PM