Food took center stage at COP28, but a lot needs to be done to prepare a healthy meal

COP28 emerged as a pivotal moment for food systems agenda and included over 200 events that examined food systems transformation or sustainable agriculture in some capacity. Leading this momentum was the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, marking a crucial step forward in international efforts to address the interconnected challenges of climate change, nature loss, and food systems transformation.  

But even beyond the most headline-grabbing declarations like this one, COP28 saw dozens of key commitments, reports, and roadmaps that could help transform food systems for a sustainable and equitable future. Climate Focus is proud to have led the development of several of these new resources and findings, including a primer on an upcoming tool for policymakers to explore food systems measures; a report on finding synergies between climate and biodiversity efforts, with mention of food systems; an analysis of international public climate finance flows to sustainable agriculture and family farmers; and the COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate National Action Toolkit.  

As the dust settles on COP28, we’ve collected some of the key food systems developments – from international declarations to report launches – that came out of Dubai. Crucially, these are welcome developments, but this can’t be the end of efforts to transform food systems for the better. And pledges and declarations – while hopeful – ultimately will only be impactful if they are backed up by action.  

Commitments and Coalitions

  • The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action: Over 150 global leaders have vowed to enhance initiatives for the adaptation and resilience of farmers, including a commitment of USD 2.5 billion to expedite innovation and support climate solutions in agriculture. Signatories also pledged to integrate food systems strategies, (including food production, food consumption, and reduction of waste) into both their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). Signatories also agree to harmonize their national climate plans with the National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plans aligned with the UNCBD and Global Biodiversity Framework.

  • Global Stocktake integration of food systems: The Global Stocktake decision marks a pivotal moment as it incorporates references to food systems and agriculture for the first time in a major UNFCCC document. The Global Stocktake advocates for integrated, multi-sectoral solutions, emphasizing the importance of “resilient food systems.” Additionally, the framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation establishes a target of “attaining climate-resilient food and agricultural production and supply and distribution of food.” This inclusion represents a noteworthy breakthrough in recognizing the connection between food systems and climate in international negotiations.

  • Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation: Brazil, Norway, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Rwanda have jointly initiated the Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation. Their commitment includes enhancing pathways for food systems transformation and updating key plans such as NDCs, NAPs, LT-LEDS, and NBSAPs in alignment with these pathways by 2025. The alliance members further pledge to provide annual reports on their progress, highlighting targets and priority intervention areas.

  • Dairy Methane Action Alliance: The Dairy Methane Action Alliance is a pledge by the six largest dairy companies who, together with the Environmental Defense Fund, join to help dairy farmers reduce methane emissions and make farming more sustainable. These companies have agreed to report on methane emissions associated with dairy supply chains.

  • Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapes: The Action Agenda on Regenerative Landscapes is a commitment by several major companies to scale regenerative agriculture practices on more than 160 million hectares by 2030. These businesses agreed to monitor and report on the impact of their initiatives, including accounting for emissions and the well-being of farmers.
  • Food Systems Technical Cooperation Collaborative: The Food Systems Technical Cooperation Collaborative, led by a group of international organizations and governments, was formed to channel finance to jumpstart the implementation of the Emirates Declaration. 
  •  Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) Partnership: FAST is a partnership that aims to jumpstart and accelerate the transformation of agriculture and food systems by 2030. The partnership was developed to implement activities and achieve the objectives of the FAST Initiative, which was developed and launched by the COP27 Presidency in 2022 
  • Partnership on Water-Resilient Food Systems : FAO has introduced a Partnership on Water-Resilient Food Systems, aiming to tackle the vital connections between soil health, water cycles, and various aspects of food systems, including production, processing, and transportation.

  • World Economic Forum First Movers Coalition for Food: With backing from the UAE Government and over 20 corporate and research partners in the food sector, this coalition strives to boost market demand for sustainable and low-emission agricultural products.
  • COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health: A total of 124 countries have pledged their commitment to the UAE Declaration on Climate and Health. This declaration underscores the significance of addressing the connections between climate change and human health and well-being within the framework of the Paris Agreement.  

Reports, Roadmaps, and Recommendations

  • Global Roadmap to 1.5C: FAO introduced a Global Roadmap to 1.5°C, outlining targets and timelines for ten crucial action areas. These include topics such as livestock, soil and water management, and the reduction of food loss and waste. 
  • Breaking Silos: Enhancing Synergies between NDCs and NBSAPs: Climate Focus developed a report that overviews how conventions, national policymakers, and non-state actors can strengthen synergies between countries’ NDCs and NBSAPs. Released at COP28 in Dubai and developed with WWF, the report identifies several key entry points for synergies between climate and biodiversity strategies.

  • COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate National Action Toolkit: Climate Focus participated in a taskforce that culminated in the release of the COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate National Action Toolkit for National Adaptation Plans and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The taskforce comprised of FAO, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the NDC Partnership, Climate Focus and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. 
  • Untapped Potential: An analysis of international public climate finance flows to sustainable agriculture and family farmers: Climate Focus conducted an analysis of climate finance on behalf of family farming networks representing over 35 million family farmers in Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. The analysis finds that only a miniscule fraction is spent on small-scale family farmers and sustainable agriculture. These findings supported the network’s advocacy at COP28 for more climate finance. 
  • Carbon market opportunities in the agriculture sector in Latin America and the Caribbean: Climate Focus developed a report aimed at helping policymakers in Latin America and the Caribbean understand how high integrity voluntary carbon markets can support climate action and resilience in the region’s food production systems. This work is collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Voluntary Carbon Market Integrity Initiative (VCMI).  
  • Integrated flood management for resilient agrifood systems and rural development: FAO has released a technical report providing an overview of the impact of flooding in rural areas. The report suggests integrated solutions that offer multiple long-term benefits for people, nature, and resilient agrifood systems. Its recommendations focus on enhancing resilience to floods in rural areas.
  • Loss and damage and agrifood systems – Addressing gaps and challenges: FAO launched a report focused on loss and damage in agrifood systems, highlighting the need for climate and agricultural data for enhancing climate finance and technical assistance. 
  • Pathways towards lower emissions – A global assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation options from livestock agrifood systems: FAO released a report that offers a global assessment of greenhouse gas emissions from livestock systems, using the FAO’s Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM). Also drawing from an extensive literature review, the publication outlines pathways for reducing emissions through interventions on both the supply and demand sides of animal production. 
  • Regenerative Food Systems Outcomes Framework: Zero Draft: The Regenerative Food Systems Outcomes Framework is a comprehensive and inclusive set of measures designed through collaboration with farmer organizations, Indigenous groups, landscape initiatives, academia, and businesses. It takes a holistic and consultative approach, centering on farmers and landscape stewards, to accurately capture and represent the dynamic changes that unfold on farms and across landscapes over time.  

Finance for Food and Agriculture

  • A new fund for agriculture research by the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with the UAE Government, is dedicating a joint fund of USD 200 million for agricultural research. This initiative aims to expedite the creation of innovations that support smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, fostering resilience and enabling adaptation to climate change.

  • USD 10 billion for the Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative: Under the facilitation of the Global Green Growth Institute, countries and institutions from Africa and the Middle East have collaborated to mobilize a substantial fund of USD 10 billion. The objective is to scale up agriculture and food systems, fostering economic development in both regions.

  • Africa Rural Climate Adaptation Finance Mechanism (ARCAFIM): The Africa Rural Climate Adaptation Finance Mechanism (ARCAFIM) is a new financing mechanism to ramp up support for small-scale food producers in rural communities to adapt to a changing climate in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

  • AIM for Climate Innovation Sprint on Addressing Gender Inequality for Effective Climate Action in Agrifood Systems: CGIAR and 20 partners have pledged USD 31 million over the four-year period from 2023 to 2027. This commitment is aimed at ensuring that climate innovations in agrifood systems are tailored to benefit women and are implemented in ways that address fundamental gender inequalities.

  • Food-related grants by Bezos Earth Fund: The Bezos Earth Fund announced USD 57 million in food-related grants to address deforestation and promote climate-smart agriculture.

  • FAO and Norway announce new phase of the EAF-Nansen Programme: Norway and FAO have unveiled a new five-year phase of the EAF-Nansen Programme, with a focus on intensifying efforts to improve food and nutrition security in partner countries. The emphasis will be on bolstering fisheries management to tackle the effects of climate change. Norway is committing a budget of 1 billion NOK (nearly $94 million) for the period spanning 2024 to 2028.