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COP28: The UN’s net zero food plan 
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

13 December 2023

COP28: The UN’s net zero food plan 

COP28’s Food, Agriculture and Water Day saw major announcements on climate action for both water and food security and decarbonisation. In total, more than $7.1 billion has been mobilised during COP28 for climate-positive action in the food system sector. Key announcements include:

  1. The Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate unveiled an increased $3.4 billion in aggregated funding for climate-smart food systems and agriculture;

  2. Philanthropic funders announced $389 million to support food producers and consumers;

  3. Italy pledged a further commitment of up to €10 million to be made available over the next two years, and the UK announced a new commitment of £45 million over the next five years, which will be channelled through the World Bank's Food Systems 2030 Trust Fund.H.E Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of climate change and environment and COP28 food systems lead, said: “To achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, to keep 1.5C within reach, we must address the connection between global food systems, agriculture, and the climate. At COP28, we have built the foundations for action, which commit 152 countries to transform their food systems, and embedding those commitments in their climate strategies, all the while ensuring they are protecting the livelihoods of those who depend on those sectors. Together, we must build a global food system that is fit for the future. Today marks an important moment in achieving this.” FAO roadmap The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) identified ten priority areas to push the world closer to achieving zero hunger and climate resilience by 2050. The FAO launched its roadmap earlier this week at COP28, identifying “ten pivotal domains” which call for immediate “mobilised climate finance”. The roadmap will be laid out over the next two to three years, starting with a document that contains 20 key targets to be met between 2025 and 2050. These include food loss and waste, soil and water, forest and wetlands, fisheries and aquaculture, crops, clean energy, livestock and healthy diets for all. The organisation detailed a list of targets for each of the areas, addressing food security and climate change. The targets include reducing methane emissions from livestock by 25% by 2030; ensuring all the world’s fisheries are sustainably managed by 2030; safe and affordable drinking water for all by 2030; and eliminating the use of traditional biomass for cooking by 2030.

The roadmap says that by 2030, all countries should have worked towards updating their dietary guidelines for food and should implement legislation which restricts child-targeted food advertising. The roadmap also calls for 50% of food waste worldwide per capita to be cut at retail and consumer levels. It says that all food loss and waste should be used in the production of feed, soil enhancement or bioenergy by 2050. The FAO has called for all farmers to use globally recognised solutions for tracking GHG emissions. Last week, it was announced that six of the world’s largest dairy companies – Danone, Bel Group, General Mills, Lactalis USA, Kraft Heinz and Nestlé – will soon disclose their methane emissions as part of a new global alliance, the Dairy Methane Action Alliance. If the targets are achieved, the roadmap estimates that 150 million people would no longer face hunger by 2025 compared to 2020 and that emissions from drained carbon soils would be cut by 5%. The FAO also anticipates that by 2030, chronic hunger could be non-existent and that gross GHG emissions from agrifood would have reduced by 25%. FAO’s chief economist, Maximo Torero, said that the goal of this roadmap is to transform agrifood systems through accelerated climate actions to “help achieve food security and nutrition for all, today and tomorrow”. With around 738 million chronically malnourished people around the world, Torero said food must be part of the discussion on climate and must attract climate investments, which currently sit at 4%. Funding According to a report released in connection to the roadmap, FAO said climate finance flowing to agrifood systems is “strikingly low” and continues to diminish compared to global climate finance flows, at a time when this type of financing is urgently needed. Ruth Davis, a fellow at the European Climate Foundation, and senior associate at Oxford’s Smith School, said: “The world desperately needs a roadmap which points us to a fairer, more resilient and sustainable future for food systems. The FAO has made a useful start, but it doesn’t take us all the way to the destination we need.” She called for a much stronger focus on nature, which she said would be crucial to ensuring food security. “Goals and targets for protecting and restoring nature, agreed by 188 governments last year in a historic global deal must guide the next iteration of the FAO roadmap, or we all risk being on the road to nowhere.” Food awareness organisation ProVeg International, welcomed the FAO’s roadmap to 1.5C for recognising the absolute necessity for dietary transformation. However, ProVeg also expressed concern about many of the recommendations of the roadmap, including solely proposing methane reduction technologies, putting forward a blanket promotion of aquatic food and not prioritising crops for human consumption over animal feed. ProVeg is one of 21 organisations that have signed a statement highlighting the concerns about the roadmap and calling for a more holistic approach to tackling the climate, nature and health challenges posed by global food systems. Stephanie Maw, policy manager at ProVeg International, said: “We welcome the recognition by the FAO in its roadmap to 1.5C of the need to change diets for both human and planetary health. However, the roadmap falls short of highlighting the specific benefits of transitioning towards more healthy, plant-based diets, especially in regions with excessive consumption of animal-based foods.” She continued: “The UN’s IPCC and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have clearly stressed the need to shift to more plant-based diets in order to tackle climate change, but the FAO has not taken this fully on board. In addition, the FAO roadmap talks of 'methane reduction technologies' for livestock, which overlooks key aspects like the availability, scalability and affordability of these technologies, and fails to recognise the critical need for consumption shifts and livestock herd reduction, as recognised in UNEP’s Global Methane Assessment.” “Instead, we would like the FAO to consider the adverse impacts of industrial animal agriculture in pushing us across planetary boundaries and to focus on reducing global farmed animal numbers while implementing policies that accelerate a just transition to healthier, more sustainable, plant-based diets.” Deforestation Also announced at COP28, the UK Government confirmed that “supermarket essentials” will no longer be linked to illegal deforestation. Palm oil, cocoa, beef, leather and soy are to be included in new legislation aimed at helping ensure the products we buy do not harm the world’s forests. This move will give shoppers in the UK assurance that the goods they buy are not contributing to deforestation that violates the laws and regulations of the countries where they come from. The legislation marks a step change from voluntary approaches already in place, protecting the future of the world’s forests that we need to help tackle climate change.

Introduced through the Environment Act, this legislation will see businesses that have a global annual turnover of over £50 million and use over 500 tonnes of regulated commodities a year banned from using them if sourced from land used illegally. These businesses will also be required to undertake a due diligence exercise on their supply chains and to report on this exercise annually for transparency. UK Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said: “Globally, we lose forests equivalent to the size of about 30 football pitches every minute. It’s why we are cleaning up supply chains to make sure that big businesses in the UK aren’t responsible for illegal deforestation. It also means shoppers can be confident that the money they spend is part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.”

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