For the sake of people, climate and nature, we must work together to transform what, and how, we grow and consume

By Gonzalo Muñoz, High-Level Champion for COP25 and Chair of the Non-State Actors Pillar of the COP28 Presidency’s Food Systems & Agriculture Agenda | October 9, 2023

The global food system has the power to nurture the world’s growing population, boost livelihoods and jobs, and help us achieve our climate and nature goals.

But today’s food system is not fit for purpose. Although we produce an excess of calories globally, over 700 million people face hunger and more than 3 billion people cannot afford a healthy diet. Scandalously, many of those who cannot afford nutritious food actually work in food production.

The food system is both a driver of climate change – responsible for a third of global greenhouse gas emissions – and is severely impacted by climate change, with droughts, floods, extreme heat, changing rainfall patterns, and locust swarms depleting yields.

It’s also the number one driver of biodiversity loss and deforestation, even though food security depends on healthy and functioning natural ecosystems and resources. And as harrowingly shown by Covid-19 and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it’s not able to adapt to shocks and stresses, with rising cost of food and food shortages becoming increasingly common.

We need to transform our food system so that it delivers for people, climate, and nature. This means changing both how we grow food and what we produce and consume.

To do this we need concerted and dedicated work by all actors involved in the food system – including farmers and food producers, input providers, traders, processors, consumer goods companies, retailers, financial institutions, cities, consumers, and governments. This transformation needs to centre, and elevate, the work already being carried out by many farmers, fishers, ranchers, pastoralists and Indigenous Peoples who are directly producing the food that lands on our tables.

The ground for a food system transformation is fertile, especially in the run-up to the UN’s COP28 climate conference in the United Arab Emirates this year. As chair of the Non-State Actors’ Pillar in the COP28 Presidency’s Food Systems & Agricultural Agenda, I am working with a range of actors to accelerate action ahead of the conference and beyond.

Critical actions include transitioning production practices to more sustainable, regenerative, and agro-ecological approaches, shifting consumption to healthy and sustainable diets, reducing food loss and waste, and protecting and restoring nature – all without further land conversion for agriculture. These must be done in a way that ensures transition pathways are just and inclusive, appropriate to local contexts and dedicated to ensuring food and nutrition security for all. This requires reshaping financial incentives and introducing supportive policies and regulations that create market and trade conditions to favour healthy and sustainable foods.

We are working with partners to scale up sustainable, regenerative and agroecological food production that works with nature, not against it, and build resilient farmer livelihoods. For example, Regen10 is producing a holistic outcomes framework to measure changes at the farm and landscape level to transition to regenerative, agroecological approaches that deliver positive outcomes for people, nature, and climate by 2030; Aga Khan Foundation is supporting small and marginal farmers in India and Africa adopt agroecological approaches; and the COP28 Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapes is working with food companies, farmers organisations and civil society to achieve regenerative production on a ‘landscape’ level.

We also need to make it easier and more affordable, available, and accessible for people to eat healthy and sustainable foods, especially the most vulnerable. Groups such as Transforming Urban-Rural Food Systems Consortium (made up of six organisations: C40 Cities, CARE, EAT, GAIN, ICCCAD, the Club of Rome, and WWF,) and Local Governments for Sustainability (or ICLEI) are supporting urban leaders who are taking action to provide culturally-appropriate, healthy, and sustainable foods for their citizens. And organizations such as WRAP, Champions 12.3, and the Global FoodBanking Network are working to halve food loss and waste by 2030.

We are also working to align, de-risk and scale up finance to help deliver plans to transform food systems, building on the work of finance networks such as the Good Food Finance Network to mainstream action on food in sustainable finance efforts like TCFD, TNFD, GFANZ, SBTi, NGFS and others.

By showing governments that action is underway – and that it’s inevitable – we can encourage states to set more ambitious targets and policies and accelerate the transformation.

We also need to set robust targets, metrics, and milestones to measure progress – a huge gap in this sector. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is helping with this by launching a roadmap at COP28 for aligning the food system with a pathway to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and achieving zero hunger by 2030.

Multi-stakeholder partnerships are critical if we are to shift the enabling conditions so that financial, policy and market incentives support actors in the food system to do good for people, climate, and nature, and help address the structural barriers that many farmers face when trying to shift their practices. I am convinced of the power of multi-stakeholder approaches. Now is the time to act – and together, we can make it happen.

Nature & Land Use

Voces indígenas en la COP28: “Imploramos a toda la humanidad que se una con un objetivo único: declarar, ‘Ya es suficiente'”

Tres miembros de la Delegación de la Comunidad de Primera Línea (FCD), María Pedro de Pedro, Briseida Iglesias López de Guerrero y Maricela Fernández Fernández, arrojan luz sobre las realidades urgentes enfrentadas por quienes están más directamente afectados por el cambio climático. Sus historias revelan no sólo los desafíos, sino también la resiliencia y las soluciones encontradas dentro de las comunidades de primera línea.

Nature & Land Use

Indigenous voices at COP28: “We implore all of humanity to unite with a single objective: to declare, “Enough is enough”

Three members of the Frontline Community Delegation (FCD), Maria Pedro de Pedro, Briseida Iglesias Lopez de Guerrero, and Maricela Fernández Fernández, shed light on the urgent realities faced by those most directly impacted by climate change. Their stories reveal not only the challenges but also the resilience and solutions found within frontline communities.