The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action was formally announced and endorsed on December 1st at the “Transforming Food Systems in the Face of Climate Change” event at the World Climate Action Summit (WCAS) Leaders Event at the UN Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) COP 28 in Dubai.
The latest assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlight the crucial role of addressing agriculture and food systems in an impactful global response to climate change. COP28 holds the opportunity to unite the global food and climate communities, fostering a collaborative context for collective action.
Centered around the Emirates Declaration, the WCAS event brought together producers, NGOs and leaders from the public and private sector to forge new commitments with the objective of setting higher standards for global ambition and initiatives toward the transformation of food systems.
Speakers underscored the role of farmers and agriculture to climate discussions. In the words of the Emirates Declaration, signatories declare their intent to work collaboratively and expeditiously towards “Scaling-up adaptation and resilience activities and responses in order to reduce the vulnerability of all farmers, fisherfolk, and other food producers to the impacts of climate change, including through financial and technical support for solutions, capacity building, infrastructure, and innovations, including early warning systems, that promote sustainable food security, production and nutrition, while conserving, protecting and restoring nature.”
The Emirates Declaration has thus far received 136 endorsements from global heads of state and government, with signatories representing the home countries of more than 500 million farmers.
Sir David Nabarro, Co-Director and Chair of Global Health at Imperial’s Institute of Global Health Innovation served as the emcee, highlighting the valuable contributions and vulnerabilities faced by smallholder farmers on the front lines of climate change.
Elisabeth Nsimadala, President of Eastern Africa Farmers Federation of Uganda highlighted that adaptation remains a prominent objective for agriculture and stressed that a climate fund needs to be established specifically for farmers, stating that “farmers need to be given a seat at the table where the cake is being served.”
“We really owe it to farmers,” said Bill Gates whose most recent commitment towards agricultural innovation via the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in collaboration with the United Arab Emirates was announced by United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam Bint Mohammed Almheiri.
The investment of $200 million is expected to expedite the advancement of innovations aimed at assisting smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia in bolstering resilience and adapting to the impacts of climate change.
“This is an issue with which Italy has a long-standing commitment,” said Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Maloney.
“It is my idea that Africa doesn’t need charity. It needs something different. It needs to compete on a level playing field,” she said.
Gates urged world leaders to prioritize agriculture in international climate finance initiatives and provide backing to the global agricultural research network, CGIAR.
“We need to scale up innovations,” said Minister Almheiri. “Our partnership [with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation] is moving food systems from the margins to the top” of priorities of the agenda at COP.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) were also among the signatories of the Emirates Declaration and were represented on the stage by Afioga Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Prime Minister of Samoa who stressed the importance of digital transformation to small island communities.
Small Island Developing States are prone to climate-related threats to agriculture such as extreme weather, flooding and permanent land submersion due to rising sea levels, drought, coastal erosion, and other land management challenges.
“Our ability to climate proof our food production system will determine whether we continue to be food secure,” said Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry & Labour of Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, whose Caribbean nation is a Small Island Developing State and climate vulnerable country supporting the declaration.
“The attainment of the SDGs by 2030 is intrinsically linked to our success at adopting climate smart technologies in how we produce our food. This comes at a significant cost and it is critical that we have a partnership between the public and private sector regarding joint financing.”
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a member state of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) an intergovernmental organization representing the combined interests of seven Eastern Caribbean SIDS.
“The Emirates Declaration is of practical importance to us as it recognizes the dual role of the agriculture sector for combating climate change, but also our survival as humans,” said Dr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
“Over the last few months we in the Eastern Caribbean have experienced the escalating impact of climate change on our food production. We had record breaking temperatures from May through to October which resulted in noticeable shortages of commodities such as leafy greens and vegetables. The declaration fosters global collaboration, mobilization of technology and resources to support not only adaption but adoption of sustainable agricultural practices. It is also in line with the OECS’ vision to develop a climate resilient and smart agricultural sector.”
On December 10th, the Emirates Declaration will be formally deliberated by dignitaries and ministerial leaders. The assembly will be augmented by a diverse group of implementing and finance partners, contributing varied approaches and public-private models for the transformation of agricultural and food systems. This event will delineate the roadmap for executing the Declaration’s objectives by 2025. Additionally, it will showcase tools, policy platforms, and unveil a COP28 legacy “climate policy toolkit for food” designed to assist Declaration signatories in expediting their implementation efforts.
“The name of the game is scaling and scaling as fast as we can,” said Antoine de Saint-Affrique, Chief Executive Officer of Danone.
The event was a critical moment during the food segment of the World Climate Action Summit and featured remarks from Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; HE Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion, COP28 UAE; Antoine de Saint-Affrique, Chief Executive Officer of Danone; Dr Qu Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization; Dr Ismahane Elouafi, Executive Managing Director of CGIAR; Roberto S. Waack President of the Board, Arapyau Institute, alongside country leaders Giorgia Maloney, Prime Minister of Italy; Anthony Blinken, United States Secretary of State; Afioga Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa, Prime Minister of Samoa, and HE Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia..
The event was described by United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam Almheiri, as a historic moment for food systems which lie at the nexus of nutrition, improving livelihoods and climate change.