For over two weeks democracies and global governments from all four corners of the world gathered in the Two Lands for the most high-profile geopolitical event of the year, the United Nations Climate Conference (COP27), to try and tackle the climate emergency. Despite EU efforts to encourage higher emission-cutting commitments by major emitters, COP27 discussions on the need for more sustainable food systems were disappointingly absent.
The event started with UN General Secretary, António Guterres, saying that, "Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a climate solidarity pact, or a collective suicide pact". Well COP27 finished with a stalemate pact. It failed to deliver the transformative change needed to truly grasp the severity of the climate emergency.
Nonetheless, FOUR PAWS played a substantial role in being a part of history at COP27 by hosting a historic and trailblazing first ever food systems pavilion. The Food4Climate pavilion brought food system transformation and sustainable diets to the heart of COP27, mainstreaming the conversation around the transition toward diverse and resilient food production and consumption systems.
Alongside 15 other key partners, the Pavilion focused on proven climate change mitigation and adaptation solutions, including the shift towards plant-rich diets, adopting sustainable and resilient agricultural practices, based on high animal welfare, and highlighted industrial livestock farming’s role in the climate crisis.
There was also a strong focus pitched to decision makers on a just transition, the programme brought together diverse stakeholders to explore inclusive mechanisms to fundamentally transform food and farming systems to tackle climate, environmental and social challenges together.
FOUR PAWS hosted four high-level panels over the conference period. Bringing together illustrious decisions makers, legislators, academics, and experts from across multiple sectors to discuss food system policies, agricultural methane, pandemic prevention, and sustainable livestock management systems.
There was also another historic first with a Presidency Day allocated to agriculture and adaptation in a COP. As well as delivering a landmark decision to set up a Loss and Damage fund which will provide financial assistance to the Global South who are disproportionately affected by climate disasters.
There were other slight successes that moved the needle in the right direction, such as the Parties recognising the need to transition to more sustainable consumption and production patterns and the concrete agreement for the need for more climate action on agriculture and food security.
Yet there was not much else to celebrate: there was another periodic failure to shift away from animal protein heavy food systems at the UN level, without which global climate targets such as those set out in the Paris Agreement, will not be met.
The scope and ambition of the next phase of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture, the Sharm el-Sheikh implementation on agriculture and food security, was hugely disappointing, with references to a whole of food systems approach to climate action taken out and replaced.
Whilst the EU was supportive of taking a food systems approach to climate action and recognised that they need to speed up their emissions reduction process to be in line with the 1.5°C goal. But moving from a 55% emissions reduction target to 57% is not in line with what science dictates.
Food systems make up a third of manmade greenhouse gases – including from our diets - climate action cannot just be about adapting production practices, we need urgent emissions reductions and world leaders failed to deliver on this fundamental issue. Progressive states and NGOs will now have to work together to ensure mitigation from livestock farming remains part of the next four-year work package so that food and farming policies work for people and the planet. We hope that the EU’s thwarted ambitions on the international stage will further ramp up action on food systems at home. Addressing overconsumption and overproduction of animal products within the Sustainable Food Systems Framework would be a good start.
All eyes now turn to Dubai, who will stage COP28. With the United Arab Emirates being a petrostate this will be a controversial conference, and many questions will be asked over the next 12 months. But since COP26, the UAE, alongside the United States, has set up The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate which seeks to address climate change and global hunger by building more resilient agriculture and food systems over a five-year period. Yet, there is a worry that despite doubling their funding to 8 billion dollars, this programme is one of quick fixes with no long-term planning, while potentially locking farmers into even more destructive practices that support factory farming at the expense of environmental and animal welfare protections.
Time will tell if this is a wise choice to have the UAE as the hosts, but time is something that we are desperately running out of when it comes to the climate emergency.