COP27: food finally takes centre stage at climate conference

By Tom Tanner, Sustainable Restaurant Association

Next week sees the start of COP27, and while it might only seem like yesterday since anyone with an interest in climate change gathered in Glasgow, yes, the Conference of the Parties moves on to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. And, after another U-turn, this includes the new UK Prime Minister. 

What we can say with certainty is that, for the first time since the original UN climate agreement in Rio in 1992, food and agriculture are front and centre. Given the food system accounts for a third of global emissions, it’s long overdue. There will be four food pavilions in total and the COP Egyptian Presidency has nominated Saturday 12 November Adaptation & Agriculture Day. 

In this digital age you don’t have to be there in person to participate. Both the Food Systems and Food4Climate pavilions have a full programme of content covering all aspects of food production, use and waste – from land use and emissions, healthy diets and food security to soil health and regenerative farming. 

While COP26 was seen as the COP of commitments, the aim of this year’s conference is that it should promote and enable implementation. 

The Food Systems Pavilion, run by a coalition of international food organisations, will focus on actions, strategies, and solutions across the entire food value chain that have the potential to drive the transformation towards healthier, more resilient, and more equitable food systems. 

Ed Davey, Policy and International Engagement director at one of those organisations, Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU), has highlighted how only three per cent of public climate finance goes towards food systems, according to a new report from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. That’s 22 times less than the amount directed to the energy and transport sectors. FOLU and partners are calling on parties to at least double the percentage of climate finance allocated to food and land use.  

“We’ve never really had such a strong COP on food,” he added. 

The hope is that by highlighting winning formulas from around the world in sessions next door to those where the world’s leaders and policymakers will be, should send a strong message for bold, impactful policy at national and international level. 

A major focus will be on demonstrating how a move to more plant-rich diets are a win-win – reducing the impact of agriculture while increasing food security. Meat remains the elephant in the room for many and the most contentious issue for policymakers – very few if any of them wanting to be seen as telling their citizens to eat less. 

On the table, in terms of practical solutions – shifting public procurement for food in schools and hospitals towards more plant-based.  

The Food4Climate Pavilion will also be showcasing real world examples of positive progress. The next step is taking these solutions being practised on a small scale and commercialising them, developing and adapting them to work in different locations at both large and small scale. For example, how could vertical farming be adapted to boost food security. How could this and other technological advances be rolled out? Our colleagues at Feedback with whom we worked on the official response to the consultation on the Government’s proposal for mandatory food waste reporting, are hosting a session Why the climate crisis demands food waste regulation on 15 November.

The Food Systems Pavilion will feature 11 days of programming – including 10 Thematic Days highlighting the critical role that transforming food systems must play in climate mitigation, adaptation and building resilience. 

Check out the full calendar 

6 November – ENHANCE resilience to climate and shocks 

8 November – ENABLE a culture of sustainable, healthy and nutritious diets 

9 November – INCREASE sustainable investment and financing to build food systems 

10 November – ACCELERATE innovation and digitalisation 

11November – BOOST nature positive production and soil health 

12 November – SCALE climate resilient agriculture 

14 November – EMBRACE sustainable water and aquatic blue food diversity for climate smart food systems 

15 November – CHAMPION youth action in food systems 

15 November – PROTECT and restore nature 

17 November – TRANSFORM value chains and develop inclusive markets. 

Food4Climate Pavilion, perhaps slightly confusingly, is running a wholly differently themed calendar. You can find the full calendar here – among the days that might be of interest – Wednesday 16 November Loss and Waste in Food Systems, although, you might want to check out the session the previous day at 9am GMT on 15 November 

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email