Agriculture and food production will be included in high-level climate discussions at the COP28 summit starting this week, highlighting farming's role in addressing global emissions and limiting the effects of a warming planet.
The upcoming United Nations climate summit in Dubai will be the first to dedicate a full day to exploring climate action across food, agriculture, and water. The United Arab Emirates has also called on countries to sign a declaration committing to the inclusion of food transformation in climate mitigation and adaptation plans.
“The climate and food crises are inseparable," Director-General Qu Dongyu, who will lead the delegation for the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, said in a statement Tuesday. "Investing in agrifood systems and rural areas creates the concrete solution to address the impacts of the climate crisis."
Food systems account for roughly a third of global emissions, and agriculture is becoming more central to climate talks as the sector struggles to make progress on sustainability targets. A New York Times examination found that among 20 of the world's largest food and restaurant companies, more than half had not made any progress on emissions reductions goals or reported rising emissions levels.
Last year's climate summit in Egypt expanded the convention's mandate to address agriculture and food security, growing the UN's focus beyond just agricultural production. Food and environmental groups were disappointed, however, that the agreement did not include a mandate to transform food systems, which would address the environmental toll from processing, manufacturing and food waste.
This year, the UN's FAO is set to release its first roadmap for food systems to reach net-zero emissions, which could shape future policy decisions and include more than just agricultural production. Among other things, the report is expected to call on wealthy nations to reduce their red meat consumption, according to Bloomberg.
Other food-focused pledges and commitments are expected to take shape throughout the two-week summit, which kicks off Thursday. Negotiators plan to finalize details of an agreement to provide "loss and damage" funding for farmers and vulnerable communities to better withstand climate disasters.
The FAO said Tuesday that there will also be "special announcements" on agricultural partnerships and initiatives throughout the course of the conference. UN leaders have pushed private-public partnerships to scale innovation within the food sector and accelerate climate action.
A Food and Agriculture Pavilion at the summit will host events and showcase innovations that can drive transformation in agriculture. In an acknowledgment of the livestock sector's impact on climate, two-thirds of the food served at the summit will be plant-based.