World Food Day: Leaders Present Case To Transform Food Systems

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World Food Day

On World Food Day, Leaders Present the Case for Urgent Action to Transform Food Systems to Reduce Emissions and Build Resilience.

Farmer, Civil Society, and Philanthropic Leaders and Scientific Experts Come Out in Force to Support the Upcoming, Unprecedented Moment for Food Systems Transformation at this Year’s UN Climate Conference.

There is mounting evidence that agriculture and food systems–food production and waste, processing, packaging, transporting and consumption–are both a cause and casualty of climate change. Science also shows that they have a huge mitigation potential—up to 0.5°C. For this reason, food systems transformation has, for the first time, been made a top priority of this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28). Farmers, businesses, civil society and others will be coming out in force to support the food systems moment.

Ahead of World Food Day on 16 October, and World Food Forum 2023 on 16-20 October, renowned food and agriculture experts, and representatives from the private sector, civil society, and farmers organizations from the Global South provide statements (see below) to emphasize that food systems solutions should be front and center in the fight against climate change and urge state and non-state actors to deliver pledges and commitments that translate into real transformative and systemic action on food systems and nature at COP28.

Professor Sir David Nabarro, Senior Advisor to the COP28 Food Systems Team and Strategic Director of 4SD Foundation, said:

“Societies everywhere increasingly see the need to act in ways that ensure that the world will be a habitable place for all those in coming generations. But for this to happen, those who lead for change need to take risks and address urgent and difficult issues. I welcome the fact that the hosts of COP28 this year are being bold and ambitious and are bringing the challenging issue of agriculture and food on to the agenda. Getting food right is key for the well-being of our grandchildren, and of the generations that follow them.”

Gonzalo Muñoz, former High-Level Champion for COP25 and Lead on the COP28 Non-State Actors Agenda for Food Systems on behalf of the UN Climate Champions, said:

“This COP will firmly put food systems on the agenda as a climate solution. By transforming our food systems, we know that we can provide healthy and sustainably produced food for all, but also protect and restore nature, as well as, of course, mitigate and adapt to climate change.

It is brilliant that we’ve seen rising momentum and energy over the past few years on food systems. But we need to urgently scale action now, using the opportunity that we have at COP28 and set the trajectory to COP30 in 2025, where countries will submit their revised NDCs. That’s very important to envision. It is urgent that we scale action now.”

Estrella “Esther” Penunia, Secretary General of the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development, said:

“In food systems, family farmers, especially small-scale family farmers, are the most vulnerable and most impacted by climate change. We depend on agriculture for a living and agriculture depends on the climate. Unpredictable weather patterns, droughts, and unforeseeable heavy rains spell disaster for us for our yields. And therefore, for our incomes.

But in spite of that, we family farmers are stewards of climate resilience. For example, through agroecology and agroforestry, and practicing sustainable forest management and sustainable fisheries management, we are seeing higher yields and providing higher incomes in our communities.

But we need the support of governments, development partners, the private sector, and civil society organizations. We need favorable policies and programs to scale up and to scale out the work that we do. And to be able to scale up and to scale out the work that we do, we need sufficient financing that is directed to agriculture and direct financing to small-scale family farmers. Only 4% of all climate financing goes to agriculture. And only 1.7% of that goes directly to family farmers. If we can scale this, and have sufficient direct financing, our organizations and cooperatives can be effective agents of change.”

Dr. Tim G. Benton, Research Director of the Environment and Society Programme at Chatham House, said:

“Transforming the food system is front and center in tackling global environmental and health challenges. And to tackle the food system transformation, we have to think about what is grown, how it’s grown, where it’s grown, and how much is grown, and therefore what is consumed. So transforming the food system is key to tackling climate change. But it’s also key to tackling biodiversity loss, pollution, and human health and well-being as well.”

Patty Fong, Program Director of Climate and Health & Well-being, The Global Alliance for the Future of Food, said:

“Business as usual,” is no longer an option. At COP28, there’s an opportunity for food systems to finally get the recognition it deserves as a critical climate mitigation and adaptation solution. For the first time during a global climate summit, heads of state of many countries are expected to commit to transforming their food and agricultural systems. In addition, actors from across the food systems, from food producers to financial institutions, are expected to pledge their own resources and advance ambitious plans.

COP28 is an important milestone, in a multi-decade journey that we’ve been on. It’s important to note that the expected pledges and commitments to be announced at COP28 must translate into real transformative and systemic action. And it has to be backed up by finance, by real money, by concrete timetables and targets to reduce emissions, for protecting and restoring nature, for taking fossil fuels out of food systems, and for cutting food loss and waste.

It is imperative that we transform how we produce and consume food, not only for climate change, but also for overall planetary and human health and well-being.”

Diane Holdorf, Executive Vice President, Pathways at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), said:

“The private sector welcomes the COP28 presidency’s priority focus on the role of agriculture and food systems to help drive solutions for climate change. Action is so critical. Not just to mitigate climate, but also to strengthen resilience and adapt to climate change for the farms on which the farmers and the global food system really depend.

Businesses are already taking a lot of action. We’ve seen a great acceleration since the first UN Food Systems Summit. The significant focus as we come into this COP is to make sure that we’re accelerating action on regenerative agricultural practices to produce better outcomes for climate, for nature, and for farmer livelihoods. This inclusion is so necessary for success.”


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