Why Global Sustainable Food Systems Need To Be Addressed At COP28

Food & Drink

Occasionally, I lose my voice.

It makes sense: I do a lot of talking. Much of my job is talking, whether moderating conversations at live events or chatting with inspiring people on the Food Tank podcast. The whole spark behind our work here at Food Tank is bringing people together—for dialogue.

At the same time, I’m always thinking about what those dialogues lead to. We can talk the talk, as they say—but how do we walk the walk? How do we turn our conversations into action?

For all of us who care about a sustainable and just transition for the food system, we’re about to enter the most important few weeks of the year for building meaningful, tangible, achievable progress.

I’m heading to Dubai, U.A.E., for the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP28, to moderate, facilitate, and speak at more than 30 Food Tank partnered events and dinners at two dozen locations in the city. There, policymakers, experts, scientists, advocates, farmers, young people, and passionate eaters will come together to guide the world forward.

I won’t sugarcoat things. Progress takes time. This is COP28, after all—the 28th UN climate conference. It’s taking years of sustained advocacy to demonstrate a truth we all know: That food systems are central to climate.

Two things are both true. We’re moving in the right direction; trust me on that. At the same time, our work is cut out for us.

At COP27 last year, we had the strongest showing ever for food systems at a U.N. climate conference. Food and agriculture were top-of-mind for civil society—organizations, institutions, advocates for change—from dozens of panels to amazing speakers. Meanwhile, I was disappointed that this didn’t necessarily translate into high-level policy decisions. We didn’t see the aggressive, ambitious goal-setting we hoped for, neither from governments nor businesses.

This year, food is set to be even more central and urgent than ever. Enshrining it in official climate policy is a no-brainer.

Once again, four pavilions will be devoted to food systems: Food and Agriculture, led by our partners and friends at FAO, CGIAR, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and The Rockefeller Foundation; Food Systems, spearheaded by the European Union-backed program EIT Food and a variety of other groups including the Food and Land Use Coalition; Food4Climate, organized by a variety of partners—including youth voices—pushing for a more humane and sustainable food system; and the Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas Pavilion facilitated by IICA, bringing together the global north and south across the hemisphere.

And across many of the country pavilions, hubs, and official stages, an entire day of programming is dedicated to food, on Dec. 10. Last year, the focus was on agricultural adaptation, but this year, I applaud organizers for broadening the scope to food, agriculture, and water.

The COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda, through which organizers are calling on national governments to formally declare support for food system change and integrate food into their climate policy, has real potential for big change.

Another thing I’m particularly excited about is the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s Global Roadmap, which they’ll unveil during the conference.

The roadmap comes after more than 40 investment groups, led by the FAIRR
AIRR
Initiative, called on FAO several years ago to outline a clear path toward the organization’s goal of limiting the average rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C.

As we know, various aspects of the food system are responsible for a significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions. In the energy sector, another area of massive environmental impact, we’re seeing clear priorities and investment strategies to catalyze transformation. Finally, the FAO’s roadmap is laying out these strategies for food systems, too.

The roadmap is not public yet, but we’re expecting that it will make the path crystal-clear for investors and policymakers to step up and translate conversations into action.

Because we need it—desperately.

I’m pleased to see that food and agriculture are continuing to get even more attention on an international scale, and I’m hopeful that COP28 will be a place where we can turn talk into meaningful progress.

This week, in advance of COP, Food Tank brought together more than 100 mission-driven small- and medium-sized businesses, in partnership with Oatly, to make sure they were part of the discussions at the conference. The findings from this event will be turned into a formal paper and presented at COP28.

As I mentioned, Food Tank will be at COP28—and we’re making it easy to follow along, wherever you are.

If you’ll be in Dubai too, here’s a sneak peek of Food Tank’s agenda, which we’re updating in real-time. We’ll have an incredible lineup of 150+ speakers, including policymakers like U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, food business leaders, climate journalists, and producers and farmers; plus meet-and-greets and an impact dinner series in partnership with the Forum for Farmers and Food Security, Producers Trust, Unilever, and Pegasus Capital. I also want to recognize the FAIRR Initiative, Natural Capital Solutions Pavilion, The Nature Conservancy, the UN Global Compact Norway, and the Nordic Pavilion for partnering with Food Tank this year on some of our programming.

And if you’re at home, during the main few days of the conference, Food Tank will be sending some dispatches—with glimpses into my notebook, events to watch, and updates on key progress.

Like I said, my throat does get hoarse from time to time. But now is not one of those times! I’m ready to speak loudly at COP28 about the importance of food systems, and I hope you’ll join me in doing so.

Together, we can spark real, equitable, tangible action toward a healthier future, for people and the planet.

Together, we’ll build a more sustainable food system.

If you’re interested in learning more about my company’s work at COP28 please fill out our form.

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