Cop28 to place food and agriculture at centre of fight against climate change

UAE unveils four-pronged programme for sector that accounts for up to 30 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions

Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, unveils the food systems and agriculture agenda. Photo: Cop28
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The Cop28 presidency has said agriculture and food production will take centre stage at the climate summit later this year.

Mariam Al Mheiri, Minister for Climate Change and Environment, on Monday unveiled the “food systems and agriculture agenda” for the crucial talks that aim to tackle the issue in four ways: galvanising national leadership; involving non-state actors; boosting innovation; and scaling up finance.

Launched at the UN Food Systems Summit in Rome, Ms Al Mheiri said it was the “strongest push ever given to food systems and agriculture in the Cop process”.

Ms Al Mheiri also called on governments to sign the first “leaders' declaration on food systems, agriculture and climate action”.

The declaration asks governments to put the agenda at the heart of plans to tackle climate change, embedding proposals with pledges to reduce emissions – known as nationally determined contributions – as well as in their biodiversity strategies and adaptation plans.

The launch came on the same day that UN chief Antonio Guterres told the summit global food systems were “broken” and a transformation was needed in how the world produces and consumes food. “Billions of people are paying the price,” he said.

Under the four pillars set out by Ms Al Mheiri, Cop28 will call for governments across the world to step up action on food systems and, secondly, work with non-state actors – businesses, cities, financial institutions, civil society, non-government organisations, indigenous people, academia and all other sections of society – to find solutions.

Thirdly, there will be a call for much more innovation in areas of adaptation (dealing with the effects of climate change) and mitigation (cutting emissions), while fourthly, governments will be urged to scale up finance to help fund the changes.

“The Cop28 presidency’s commitment to prioritising food systems demonstrates a dedication to address pressing global challenges,” said Ms Al Mheiri, also the Cop28 food systems lead.

“By mobilising national leadership, engaging non-state actors, scaling innovation and securing financing, Cop28 aims to drive transformative change to secure a sustainable future for all.”

Adapting to climate change

Unsustainable food production, packaging and consumption account for about a third of all greenhouse gas emissions, 70 per cent of the world’s freshwater usage and drives biodiversity loss, the UN has said.

Switching to renewable energy and adapting to climate change, such as using heat-tolerant crops and more efficient use of water, have been part of the solution and Ms Al Mheiri said it was important to increase the resilience of climate-vulnerable farmers and reduce food system-related emissions.

The Cop28 presidency also said it would unite businesses, farmer and producer organisations and other non-state actors to drive progress. This partnership will work with more than 15 leading chief executives and involve actors across each stage of the agriculture process from production to consumption and finance.

As part of this collaboration, an initiative was launched to promote the widespread adoption of regenerative agriculture in large food landscapes underpinned by procurement and investment commitments.

This drive will be co-chaired with the UN Climate Change High Level Champions; the World Business Council for Sustainable Development; and Boston Consulting Group.

During Cop28, one of the thematic days will be dedicated to food, agriculture and water to galvanise action.

Action on the issue has been building. At Cop26, the UAE and the US launched the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate). The fund aims to help prepare the agricultural sector for climate change. Billions of dollars in investment has been pledged so far by countries across the globe.

Cop27 in Egypt last year featured the first food systems pavilion and a thematic day dedicated to agriculture.

The UAE Cop28 team, meanwhile, has also been revealing more of its vision for the summit that takes place at Expo City Dubai from November 30 to December 12.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Cop28 President-designate, on July 13 said the summit would be based on four pillars – fast-tracking the energy transition, fixing climate finance, focusing on people and making inclusivity a hallmark.

He also said limiting global warming to 1.5°C was the “north star” of his plan for Cop28.

It comes after the UAE raised its own target for emissions cuts to 40 per cent this decade, up from 31 per cent.

Updated: July 25, 2023, 8:17 AM