COP negotiations have historically neglected the conversation on food’s vital role in tackling the climate crisis. This has been reflected by the fact that food systems have received just 3% of total climate finance, despite accounting for an estimated ⅓ of all greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, 90% of global food subsidies (totalling $540BN) have been deemed "harmful to the planet". A healthy global food system is achievable if attention is turned towards actively resolving the imbalances between food and the planet. Ould-Dada (Deputy Director of the FAO Climate and Environment Division) notes that “this COP is the one”.
Let's take a closer look.
Who is paying? ‘Loss and damage’
The latest projections for global warming at the start of COP27 revealed we are much closer to a 2.7°C increase above pre-industrial levels compared to the 1.5°C targets outlined in the Paris Agreement. The actual consequences of climate change have been very harshly exposed in recent years (even months), with extreme flooding in Pakistan and forest fires in India exemplifying the tangible damage that is caused by even our current 1.1°C temperature rise.
In food, the loss is mainly economic, including lost working hours due to extreme weather and lost revenue from compromised yields. Damage, on the other hand, relates to destruction and or monetary loss caused by extreme weather such as infrastructural damage or loss of standing crops.
According to the FAO between 2008–2018, billions of dollars were lost as a result of declines in crop and livestock production due to natural disasters.
Climate justice, the undercurrent to the core agenda of ‘loss and damage’ at COP27, places the responsibility on high emitters like the UK and US to deal with the burdens of climate change. The nations most impacted by climate change are fast becoming victims of the unsustainable industrialisation in developed countries. At this year's summit, Scotland committed to establishing a ‘loss and damage’ fund of $5M (and growing). This year, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, emphasised the urgent need for “progress on minimising and averting loss and damage from climate change”. Other nations have since quickly followed suit, including Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark and Germany, who have promised various forms of reparations.
The amounts likely promised, mainly in the millions, are not nearly enough to compensate for the loss and damage caused. One estimate predicts that between $390BN to $580BN a year by 2030 will be needed, going up to $1.7TN by 2050. Update: Over the course of writing this there has been drastic disagreements and drafts submitted to finalise an overarching agreement on who will pay how much.
Actions and words: Policy, pledges and initiatives announced
The global pandemic, among various other factors, can be partly to blame for slowing action. Several ambitious targets to help tackle climate change, from anti-deforestation to climate finance, have already been missed or at least still feel out of reach.However, action has been a much hotter topic at COP27 this year. Several new commitments have been announced that look to formalise action on climate change, including specific initiatives to reform our food systems.
The renewed pledge by 14 food and commodity businesses to end deforestation by 2025 seeks to address the damaging effects of land use change for production. This roadmap, coordinated by the Tropical Forest Alliance and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, aims to mitigate deforestation in supply chains while tackling issues around food security and farmer livelihoods.
Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation
A new initiative, ‘Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation’ (FAST), aims to facilitate access to climate finance for “agrifood systems” by 2030. In addition, it identifies knowledge sharing on climate action within agrifood systems and support for embedding agrifood systems in climate change policy as critical outcomes of the scheme.
Food Agency Plan (UN)
The UN Food Agency has announced its aim to launch a plan, next year, that demonstrates how the global food system can become more sustainable. Through this plan, investors should have much more clarity on where to direct funding to help the global food system effectively align with the 1.5°C targets.
Global Food and Nutrition Security Dashboard
The Global Alliance for Food Security has launched the Global Food and Nutrition Security Dashboard, which intends to bring together better and more transparent data to improve understanding of the global food security crisis and ultimately accelerate the response.
Rockefeller Foundation Grants
The Rockefeller Foundation has announced $11M in grants to use a community-led approach for scaling up indigenous and regenerative agriculture practices. These practices include advancing indigenous agroforestry in the Amazon to providing climate-smart technologies to smallholder farmers in Africa. Sara Farley, Vice President of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Global Food Portfolio, said the scheme hopes to “develop the know-how, networks and innovations needed to realise the full potential of regenerative agriculture”.
In summary: Foodsteps is passionate about offering straightforward solutions to food businesses to get started on their climate journey. Given that reforming food systems will be integral to solving the broader issues posed by the climate crisis - we are hopeful to see these initiatives from COP27 actioned.
The ‘loss and damage’ agenda is fundamental in supporting the most vulnerable parties, and as a business we put forward our voice in support of loss and damage payments. We are also keen that the conversation between large businesses, policymakers and world leaders continues looking towards proactive solutions.
We are cautiously encouraged by renewed pledges to tackle major issues in the food system like deforestation. However, given the projections that 2030 reforestation targets will be missed, we want to see more specific roadmaps, funding and interim targets for ensuring such pledges turn into action.
We will be keeping a close eye on as the ripples COP27 spread throughout the food and agricultural sector.