Climate Change

On the road to net zero emissions with agrifood system solutions

FAO Director of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment attends Climate Week NYC and the Secretary General’s Climate Ambition Summit on the margins of the UN General Assembly


Sept 20, Rome-New York – Kaveh Zahedi, leading FAO’s Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment is attending high-level events at the UN General Assembly and events in partnership with businesses, climate philanthropists and other stakeholders, as part of Climate Week NYC. He bears a clear message for countries and leaders that FAO will carry to COP28 in Dubai and beyond:

Agrifood system solutions are critical climate and biodiversity solutions that are often overlooked.

“Agriculture and food systems hold a range of solutions, from agroforestry to tackling food loss and waste, and from sustainable livestock management to decarbonizing aquatic food value chains,” said Zahedi. “These solutions are the essential thread that binds together action on biodiversity, climate, resilience and food security.”

We have reached record high temperatures, and unless we urgently correct course, the possibility of keeping under 1.5°C will be gone, bringing further risks affecting the productivity of agriculture and food systems. This includes an increased number of extreme weather events and slow onset events especially droughts, water scarcity, land and soil degradation and biodiversity loss.

By 2050, up to 10% percent of land areas used for major crops and livestock could be unsuitable because of climate change and may have diminished by thirty-four percent by the end of the century.  This is especially concerning considering results in the UN’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report 2023. The report reveals how between 691 and 783 million people faced hunger in 2022, an increase of 122 million people compared to 2019.

Adoption of a Political Declaration on SDGs

The General Assembly's high-level week was kickstarted with the SDG Summit and the adoption of a political declaration, reaffirming Member States’ shared commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its SDGs.  The declaration states that by COP28, concrete steps will be taken to operationalize new funding arrangements to respond to loss and damage. FAO, in line with the declaration will advance the 'Food & Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST)’ multi-stakeholder partnership to improve financing for climate adaptation and agrifood system transformation.

On the margins of the SDG summit, Kaveh Zahedi moderated a Ministerial Dialogue hosted by FAO Director General, QU Dongyu. Discussions centered around opportunities to scale up action and investment in agrifood system transformation. There was consensus that global climate, biodiversity, and food security goals are not only compatible, but also mutually reinforcing, and a desire to ensure this nexus approach and action are maintained at the top of the political agenda.

Zahedi also attended the General Assembly Climate Ambition Summit which, in the build up to COP28, was aiming to accelerate action from all stakeholders. The UN Secretary-General challenged countries who are ‘movers and doers’ to present credible, ambitious actions, plans and policies, and to inspire more leaders to step up and act. He also asked all parties to operationalize the Loss and Damage Fund during COP28. FAO’s research on loss and damage is demonstrating the importance of adequate investment being channeled into the communities most dependent on agriculture and food systems, due to the vulnerability to these systems to climate change.

FAO’s Roadmap

FAO’s Roadmap to achieving 1.5°C and SDG2 Zero Hunger will be launched at COP28, explained Zahedi during a ‘fireside chat’ on the Global Stocktake, which also featured Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Global Leader of Climate and Energy at the World Wildlife Fund, and Pablo Viera, Global Director of the NDC Partnership Support Unit. The roadmap will present a package of agrifood solutions that will contribute to the climate, biodiversity, and food security agendas.

Biodiversity – our strongest natural defense

The World Biodiversity Summit also took place during the high-level week.  With biodiversity as our strongest natural defense against climate change, and vital for food security, sustainably addressing biodiversity loss is a priority for FAO.

At the Summit Kaveh Zahedi drew attention to the lack of adequate financial resources and incentives to support the transition to more biodiversity-friendly food systems, but explained how there are good examples that must be accelerated and scaled up including the GEF Food Systems Integrated Programme and the newly launched  Global Biodiversity Framework Fund.

The UN General Assembly is a key global forum for multilateral discussion of international issues. In this 78th session no single issue dominated the general debate but with rising food insecurity, extreme climate events and the warmest summer on record behind us, the climate crisis received increasing attention.

FAO remains committed to supporting UN Member States who leave New York today with renewed commitment to update climate plans and targets, aware of the huge potential within our agriculture- and food systems for transformative change.