Climate Change

Agriculture and food systems finally on the table at COP27


FAO led events and hosted the Food and Agriculture Pavilion with CGIAR and the Rockefeller Foundation at the 2-week UN Climate Conference in Sharm-el Sheikh 

A shift towards sustainable, climate-resilient food production and consumption based on healthy diets would reduce health and climate change costs by up to US$1.3 Trillion by 2030.

Findings such as this, the launch of 3 new food system-related initiatives and the visibility through the Water Pavilion, UN in Egypt Pavilion and the Food and Agriculture Pavilion hosted by FAO, CGIAR and The Rockefeller Foundation, set the tone of COP27. While many were left disappointed and no new commitments on mitigation were made, there were developments, decisions and agreements that will add impetus to FAO’s work.

“Through hard work and commitment in preparing FAO’s engagement at COP27, we managed to position the Organization as a key actor and recognized player in all major negotiations, debates and high-level events elevating the role of agrifood systems as a key driver to concrete, sustainable, inclusive, resilient and long-term SOLUTIONS to the current climate change crisis,” said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General who led the 20+ strong FAO delegation over two weeks in Sharm El-Sheikh.

“In this COP27, FAO has built and further enhanced strategic partnerships paving the path to important work and collaborations and now it is time to work even harder to capitalize on our efforts for greater impact of our Climate Action on the ground and to support even more our Members, to transform their agrifood systems,” she added.

Reflecting on FAO’s success, OCB Deputy Director, Zitouni Ould-Dada said: “As FAO we achieved a lot, we managed to agree on a number of initiatives with the Presidency on agriculture, on water, and on nutrition that we will be taking forward – and expanding through our support to countries and farmers, key for the implementation of our new FAO Strategy on Climate Change 2022-2031

This year, with the added advantage of COP27 being held in the country hosting FAO’s Regional Office for the Near East and North Africa (RNE) as well as FAO’s representation in Egypt, both offices played a pivotal role in forging timely and strategic connections with the Egyptian Presidency. Assistant Director General and Resident Representative Abdulhakim Elwaer said: “This year’s COP engagement demonstrated the great value of country and regional offices in FAO’s network. The strong relationships built up with different Ministries over several decades was evident as FAO was viewed early on as a trusted partner and first port of call by the Presidency in planning for COP27.”

Act now, act FAST, we CAN!

FAO and the Egyptian presidency jointly launched the Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation Initiative (FAST), which aims to improve the quantity and quality of climate finance contributions towards food systems by 2030 and to support adaptation and limit global warming to below 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels.

Promoting food security and diversity, empowering and engaging women, youth, Indigenous Peoples and people in vulnerable situations, using science and innovation to improve agricultural practices across the value chains are just some of the principles that will guide FAST’s work.

FAO has also been a critical partner supporting the COP presidency in the formation of the Global Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN) that was also launched during COP27. Recognizing that healthy diets are a critical part of advancing climate action, a roadmap for action to COP28 is already in sight and FAO’s new climate change strategy focuses on resilient and low-emission agrifood systems that provide sufficient, safe and nutritious foods for healthy diets for all.

Critical role of water highlighted in final COP decisions

In water-scarce Near East and North Africa, it would have been hard to ignore the role of water in addressing climate change. FAO was a key partner of Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation in the organization of the COP27 Water Pavilion.

FAO interventions throughout the conference called for attention to different facets of the water-climate-food nexus, particularly the role of rural women and Indigenous Peoples in water management and land and water resources management solutions for adapting to and mitigating climate change.

The COP27 Presidency, in partnership with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), launched AWARe (Action on Water Adaptation or Resilience), an initiative to address water-related challenges and find solutions that support climate change adaptation that are fully in line with FAO’s work. 

Curbing emissions from food loss and waste

FAO findings cited in a recent IPCC report show that supply chains beyond the farm gate, including retail, household consumption and waste disposal, are becoming in many countries the largest emissions component from food. With food loss and waste accounting for 8 to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, solutions need to be found so the launch of the FAO and UN Environment Programme report ‘Sustainable Food Cold Chains: Opportunities, Challenges and the Way Forward’ at COP27 had a welcome response.  

In this context, the term ‘cold chain’ simply refers to maintaining the correct temperature for perishable food stuff from the moment of harvesting or production to the moment it arrives on our plates. A series of recommendations in the report include the collaboration of governments and other cold chain stakeholders to develop National Cooling Action Plans, and backing these plans with financing and targets to implement ambitious minimum efficiency standards.

FAO has also been involved in the 50 by 2050 Initiative led by the Ministry of Environment in Egypt to recycle 50% of Africa’s waste by 2050, the ‘123 Pledge’ to accelerate action to reduce food loss and waste worldwide, and spoke at the launch of the Global Food Loss and Waste Pledge.

The largest Indigenous People’s delegation to attend a Climate COP

With over 200 indigenous representatives from the seven socio-cultural regions. Indigenous Peoples and FAO worked together at COP 27 to ensure the recognition and strengthening of Indigenous Peoples' food systems as game-changers for climate action. FAO supported different events and opened spaces for dialogue in different pavilions for Indigenous Peoples to voice their views. Indigenous Peoples’ Leaders organized themselves to have key negotiators from the seven regions. They focused their work in ensuring that Indigenous Peoples’ rights, knowledge and food systems were included in the COP 27 outcome documents, and in future climate action and policies.

Breakthrough agreement on Loss and Damage

Described by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres as an important step towards justice, a specific fund for Loss and Damage was created.  

“The decision on Loss and Damage is excellent, providing that the operationalization of such funds will be done as rapidly as possible in view of the level of impact and suffering extreme climate events continue to cause especially for smallholders on the frontlines of climate change, in Small Island Developing States and in Least Developed Countries.” 

Remarked FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Officer, Sylvie Wabbes. FAO will identify how to support Member countries to pursue resources available through the new Loss and Damage fund and help them to access the technical assistance of the Santiago Network. 

Forests, methane and pastoral systems still high on the global climate agenda

The COP27 cover decision included a dedicated section on ‘Forest’.

During the COP27 World Leaders’ Summit, the Forest and Climate Leaders' Partnership (FCLP) was launched to ensure commitments made in Glasgow to halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation by 2030 are achieved. This voluntary partnership of 26 countries, is fully in line with FAO’s work on forestry and the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. Meanwhile, ministers from Brazil, Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo – home to more than half of the world’s tropical rainforests – signed a cooperation agreement that called for a new sustainable funding mechanism to support forest conservation and sustainable management.

During the Global Methane Pledge Ministerial meeting, the Green Climate Fund in collaboration with FAO, the Global Dairy Platform, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development approved USD 3.5 million in project preparation funding for the “Pathways to Dairy Net Zero: Promoting Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Livestock in East Africa”.

Sahelian countries welcomed FAO’s support when information was shared on specific data production and the adjustment of carbon assessment tools such as GLEAM-i to the Sahelian context.  GLEAM-i is the first open, user-friendly and livestock specific tool designed to support governments, project planners, producers, industry and civil society organizations to calculate greenhouse gas emissions.

The future of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture

The first and only agenda item that focuses on the vulnerabilities of agriculture to climate change and approaches to addressing food security under UNFCCC is the 2017 Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA). Though the mandate expired, countries at COP27 pushed for the KJWA to continue. Best practices that were extensively discussed in the KJWA on matters such as livestock, soil management, water and the economic impacts of global warming should now be implemented in practice.

This extension has bundled the KJWA into the four-year Sharm el-Sheikh joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security. There is now a window of opportunity until March 2023 for parties, observers and civil society to shape and broaden this agenda for the next four years.