Food & Drinks

Bringing Food and Agriculture Leadership to COP27

The U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP) brings together decision-makers from 200 national governments to discuss how to address the climate crisis. But since the first COP in 1995, the role of food and agriculture systems has been largely ignored.

“The holistic approach required to transform food systems doesn’t sit easily with climate negotiations narrowly focused on greenhouse gases,” says Nicole Pita, Project Manager at the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. “Right now, national climate plans are simply brushing aside food system actions.”

But that’s changing. COP27 in Egypt next month will have not one but four pavilions dedicated to food systems solutions. And the Food4Climate Pavilion, a partnership of several NGOs including those local to Egypt, is working to create a unified voice and clear call to action for decision-makers.

The coalition plans to show how transitioning to plant-rich diets is a double-win: increasing food security while decreasing the environmental impact of agriculture.

“Overconsumption of animal-based products needs to be part of climate action. We want to make sure this is what delegates take away with them,” says Josef Pfabigan, CEO of the nonprofit FOUR PAWS International.

But this is no small task. Food and agriculture systems solutions can be difficult for policymakers to navigate; with so many sectors and stakeholders involved in growing, distributing, consuming, and disposing of our food, they’re extraordinarily complex.

Addressing consumption patterns through policy can make decision-makers unpopular with voters, as well as other stakeholders with strong financial interests.

Sebastian Joy, President of the international NGO ProVeg, says a good start for any country is to include plant-based foods in public procurement programs, such as catering at schools, hospitals, and other institutions.

But it’s one thing to identify climate-friendly targets and initiatives—putting them into practice is an entirely different challenge.

Solutions to help transition to plant-rich diets need to honor the cultural significance of different foods and farming methods. Inclusivity and a just transition for food system workers “are essential issues, without which we cannot meet the Paris Agreement and the SDGs,” says Lasse Bruun, CEO of 50by40.

Farmers need the resources to transition to more sustainable production while maintaining their livelihoods and food security—and being able to do work that they’re proud of. This means ensuring a range of voices, including marginalized communities and small-scale farmers, have a seat at the table in global climate conversations.

50by40 partnered on the Food4Climate Pavilion, in part, because it will allow for these critical discussions “within a level playing field, which is a rarity,” says Bruun.

Food Tank will be partnering with the Pavilion in addition to others like The Rockefeller Foundation to highlight the solutions across the world that are already at work on critical climate solutions. The inclusion of these food pavilions at the COP27 is a huge win—but we can’t stop there.

Commitments are not enough. We need to bring a strong, collective voice to decision-makers showing that we cannot tackle the climate crisis without fundamentally transforming our food systems—and we must start implementing them now.

“There really is no time to lose, and we know the solutions,” says Pfabigan.

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