FAO in Geneva

To transform agrifood systems, we must implement climate change and biodiversity agendas in tandem


Brussels, Geneva and New York – The rethinking of food and agriculture and the necessary sector transformations we need moving forward must take into consideration the implementation of the closely interlinked climate change and biodiversity outcomes from COP27 and COP15, respectively.

This was the guiding theme at the joint hybrid briefing to FAO Members, hosted by the FAO Liaison Office with the European Union and Belgium in Brussels and the FAO Liaison Offices with the United Nations in Geneva and New York , together with the FAO Office for Climate Change, Biodiversity and the Environment. Experts from international organizations, research institutes, academia and youth also joined, all working at the crossroads of climate change, biodiversity and the environment.

The Director of the FAO Liaison Office with the United Nations in Geneva, Dominique Burgeon, moderated the in-person event, noting the importance of coming together to discuss the outcomes of COP27 and COP15, their implications for food and agriculture, and what is being done to support countries in implementing these outcomes.  

Framing the discussion was Guangzhou Qu, Director of the Liaison Office with the United Nations in New York, who provided opening remarks. “We know that we cannot achieve our mission without a healthy environment, yet we still have a lot of work to do to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to reverse biodiversity loss,” he said.

The transformation of agrifood systems: a solution to key sustainability crises

Tackling climate change and biodiversity loss will require coordinated efforts within and among all stakeholders, treating food and agriculture as an inherent part of the solution towards a healthy climate and thriving biodiversity and not only as a source of challenges.

Speaking to this was Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director of the FAO Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Climate Change, who underlined FAO’s principle that food and agriculture can be part of climate and biodiversity solutions, also calling for these  solutions to be understood, acted upon and monitored in an integrated manner.

"COP27 was the first COP where we truly saw a global recognition of the importance of food and agriculture in addressing climate crises," he said, adding that FAO has remained present and engaged in support to countries, including in providing technical and policy support and access to climate finance, this latter one a driving factor in helping honor the COP27 commitments at the intersection of food security, nutrition, and integrated water and soil resource management.

Representatives of the presidencies of COP27 and COP15, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the People's Republic of China, respectively, were also in attendance at last week's briefing. They further shed light on the interconnectedness between climate and biodiversity targets, around which countries must apply an interdisciplinary approach to ensure policy coherence between climate actions, biodiversity safeguarding, and enhanced food security and nutrition.

"The cover decision of COP27 has welcomed the establishment of a 4-year Sharm-el-Sheikh joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security," said Ahmed Magdy Rashad, First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations in New York, said, as the representative of the representative of the COP27 presidency.

Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF): targets: what they mean to plant and animal production, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture

The representative of the People's Republic of China, as President of COP15, was Yingxian Xia, Deputy Director-General of the Department of International Cooperation at the Ministry of Ecology and Environment. He stressed that  a historic Kunming-Montreal biodiversity framework was reached and noted that the international community should be very enthusiastic and have high expectations for its implementation. The final document must be put into practice and it is hoped that it will be successful by 2030.

In this light, FAO's Julie Bélanger underlined how actions in agrifood systems are central to the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal GBF. The linkages between biodiversity and food security, and particularly the fact that sustainable use of biodiversity is crucial to food and agriculture, are reflected in the framework, she said, with over half of the targets directly related to agrifood sectors.

Target 10, for example, specifically focuses on the sustainable management of agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries and forestry.

She continued to explain that countries are now expected to revise and update their National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs) by COP16 in 2024, in alignment with the goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal GBF. Therefore, it will be important that agriculture ministries and stakeholders are actively engaged in the national planning and full implementation of the agreement, following the whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach agreed by parties.

In this respect, FAO is hosting several instruments and mechanisms to improve sustainability of agrifood systems, many referring to biodiversity. FAO is one of the first UN organizations to have adopted a Strategy on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors in 2019. It was highlighted that FAO stands ready to support its Members, including by providing guidance to support planning for, and implementation of, GBF targets related to agrifood sectors, as well as provision of relevant data, support for implementation of the monitoring framework and delivering capacity development activities.

Alwin Kopse, Head of International Affairs and Food systems from the Federal Office for Agriculture in Switzerland, went on to present the importance of biodiversity as a key component of Swiss food systems, including their ecosystem services, role in healthy and nutritious diets, contribution to the resilience of food systems to crises and shocks and their cultural importance. He also presented how Switzerland will be implementing the GBF, particularly for targets on genetic diversity, reducing excess nutrients lost to the environment, reducing the overall risk from pesticides and highly hazardous chemicals, and the use of agroecological approaches.

Outcomes from COP27 and looking ahead to COP28

FAO's support to countries responds to and capitalizes on the high levels of attention given to food and agriculture at COP27. This includes policy advisory support in revising and implementing agriculture, forestry and land use components of climate mitigation and adaptation plans. These efforts will continue to be informed, in great part, by FAO's repository of nature-based solutions, from climate-smart agriculture best practices to integrated climate risks management plans. Leveraging data, technology and innovation is also central to its support to countries, in addition to mobilizing and scaling up climate finance paving the road towards climate resilient development pathways.

The importance of climate finance was also underlined by speakers at the briefing, especially on ensuring appropriate financial resources support countries in realizing the ambitious goals, and that these resources reach small and medium-scale food producers was highlighted. This is especially important as climate finance flows may be increasing, but the share targeting food and agriculture has not. Countries need to navigate addressing climate change impacts on agrifood systems while reducing the carbon footprint in food and agriculture.

The discussions also touched on the next steps while looking ahead to COP28, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates in November 2023, with the participation of Rehab Aljaberi, First Secretary and Head of the International Organizations and UN Section, at the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates in Geneva.

“As the host country of COP 28, we recognize the importance of agriculture and agrifood systems as strategic pillars and key players in climate negotiations”, she said, adding that "COP 28 will offer the opportunity to discuss the outlook for agrifood system transformation as well as the mechanisms and incentives that would be required to drive this transition in order to build fair, healthy, humane, diverse and resilient food systems.”

Christine Müller, from the European Commission, further underscored the importance of developing a comprehensive approach, working from global to local level to support the implementation of the COP27 and COP15 outcomes related to agrifood systems. The European Commission’s perspective and views on providing integrated action on climate change and biodiversity in the context of sustainable food systems were very informative in that sense.

Representing YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC and an observer to the agricultural negotiations, Lana Weidgenant highlighted the leadership and action that youth are taking to address climate change and biodiversity loss.

“Youth are engaged actively around the world in the food systems transformation, including in the UN Food Systems Summit process of which came a global youth pledge on food called Act for Food Act for Change campaign. Over 160,000 young people have signed, pledging to take action locally, regionally and nationally on food,” she said. Since young people are leaders in climate and biodiversity conservation and agrifood systems transformation, she stated the importance of continuing to bring forward the priorities and voices of children and youth into these negotiations and discussions.

Raschad Al-Khafaji, the Director of FAO's Liaison Office in Brussels provided closing remarks to the event. In his intervention, he called on joining efforts and building on the momentum gained thus far to upscale agrifood solutions that address climate change, biodiversity loss, land degradation and related environmental issues.


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