Overview, context and pillars
The 27th edition of the UNFCCC Conference of the Parties, commonly known as COP 27, took place in Sharm El Sheikh, on the Egyptian coast on the Red Sea.
During these two weeks, as in previous years, world leaders in politics, business and international organizations gathered to discuss new agreements to cope with climate change. This year something was different for the agribusiness world, COP 27 introduced into its agenda topics related to the agriculture and food industry, which had not received any special attention at the annual meeting.
The sections below outline what were the general topics of this year's climate conference and then focus on what commitments were made by the participants regarding the food production system to mitigate and reverse climate change.
- Mitigation of global warming, which needs to be kept well below the 2-degree limit, as established by the Paris agreements. In addition to prevention, COP 27 also included adaptation among its targets. As climate change causes increasingly extreme meteorological phenomena, countries need to reach a systematic level of preparation;
- emphasis on ‘loss and damage’ support, responding climate induced stresses requires funding. Climate finance must grow, be adequate, and above all, accessible also to developing nations;
- collaboration is key, as negotiations must involve an increasing number of stakeholders. COP 27 looked not only to governments, but also to the private sector and civil society, true "stakeholders" in a rapid and unanimous development of climate-friendly solutions.
A turning point for food and agriculture?
The COP agenda, as previously mentioned, has so far been dominated by finance and environmental issues, partly ignoring agriculture and the food industry. COP 27 represents a turning point providing an area entirely dedicated to the issue of food security: the "Food System Pavilion" set up by FAO.
Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, addressed the issue of providing enough food on our planet while dealing with increasing climate stresses:
“The relationship between nutrition and climate change is a challenge, but it is also an opportunity... We must implement the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition for a healthier, safer and greener future for our children and grandchildren”.
On the 12 of November 2022, "Adaptation and Agriculture Day" was held. This was the first event about food systems and climate-related happenings that resulted in the launch of two ambitious programs, FAST and I-Can.
FAST, is the acronym of Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation Initiative. It is a cooperation platform, powered by the UN and FAO and opens to a multi-stakeholder approach. The three pillars identified for its implementation are:
- smart access to finance, in order to quickly identify investment funding;
- the importance of know-how and capacity to develop voluntary guidelines to make the sector more sustainable;
- the integration of agribusiness systems, through technical advisory groups to transfer knowledge and timely sharing of best practices and high-quality results.
I-CAN, on the other hand, has the same goals but focuses more on food security and solving malnutrition, which still affects 828 million human beings. The program emphasizes the importance of data transfer and agrotechnological development. The parties involved commited to submit a report by June 30, 2023, and the program will be re-evaluated at COP 28.
Furthermore, a $18 trillion coalition of investors led by Jeremy Coller’s FAIRR Initiative successfully mobilized FAO with the task of establishing a road map to advise the agriculture and food sector on how the industry can stay within a 1.5°C pathway, while meeting the demand for food and safeguarding nature.
A precedent for future developments
In 2021, one-third of global emissions came from agriculture and the food supply chain. It is vital that the agendas of major climate summits start to seriously focus on agriculture in connection with climate change. COP 27 set a precedent, established targets as well as moments for mandatory monitoring.
This year’s COP was dubbed the ‘follow through’ COP, as there were already pressing commitments to be met from COP 26 in Glasgow. In respect to agriculture, this year’s COP was a starting point to mobilize leaders and countries to the challenge of a growing population, pressure on food supplies, all with a back drop of a warming climate.
The expectation is that agriculture will continue to have a prominent position in discussions around climate adaption and mitigation, as eloquently put by João Campari, global leader of WWF’s food practice:
“We can phase out fossil fuels, but we can’t phase out food, so we have to transform food systems”.