Monday, November 14 – Food Tank

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The true cost of our food and agricultural systems goes far beyond what we pay for groceries.

Food and agricultural production, including public health costs, environmental damage, unfair and inequitable working conditions, and much more, costs us nearly US$30 trillion a year.

“We are paying for the food system. We pay for it in the form of diabetes treatment. We pay for it in biodiversity loss,” Sara Farley of the Rockefeller Foundation told me on Saturday.

At least 93% of member states mention food in their NDCs in some capacity, but only 3% of climate finance goes to food systems.

Our discussions at COP27 this weekend reminded me that while we should be celebrating the staging of food systems at global forums like the COP, we can’t stop there. Money and resources must reach those working on the ground, especially small-scale farmers, women, indigenous communities and others who are too often underrepresented or forgotten in climate conversations.

“Billions of dollars are promised, but the money never stops where it is needed. Very often it gets stuck in structures and farmers, especially smallholder farmers, women, don’t know how to access it,” says Martina Fleckenstein, director of global policy at WWF International.

On Saturday, we discussed how to form a more unified voice around what a sustainable food future looks like. Dr. Lee Recht of Aleph Farms says that right now, “we’re all working in parallel silos instead of working together.”

Speakers on all panels emphasized the importance of representing a diversity of backgrounds, cultures and traditions. “We need community voices,” says Farley. “We need to hear from indigenous peoples, we need small farmers, big farmers. Everyone needs a voice.

Million Belay, coordinator of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, highlighted how holistic and integrated approaches to food production, such as agroecology, are inherently more inclusive.

“Agroecology builds system resilience,” says Belay. “It is based on enriching the soil, bringing communities together, planting various crops, and the basis for future initiatives on people’s culture and practices.”

Here are some other important takeaways from the COP27 negotiations and discussions:

Over the weekend, Sameh Shoukry, Minister of Foreign Affairs and President of COP27, launched the Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace (CRSP) initiative.

The initiative is based on four pillars, in which sustainable food systems are specifically highlighted: (1) strengthening the link between climate adaptation and peacebuilding, (2) sustaining peace through sustainable food systems resilient, (3) provide sustainable solutions to climate change. the link to displacement; and (4) accelerating climate finance for peacekeeping.

The importance of climate-resilient food systems is particularly evident in developing countries and rural populations, where small-scale producers are already under strain.

“We need to help rural people build their resilience to extreme weather events and adapt to climate change. Otherwise, we just go from one crisis to another. Small farmers are working hard to produce food for us under difficult conditions,” said Sabrina Dhowre Elba, UN Goodwill Ambassador for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), at a press conference.

On Saturday, Mexico pledged to cut emissions by 35% by 2030, down from a previous target of 22%, making it one of the few countries at this COP to improve its targets. (Read more on Bloomberg.)

Meanwhile, scientists have warned that there are limits to climate adaptation, recommending that loss and damage – or the impacts of extreme weather so severe that countries cannot adapt – are becoming a bigger part of the conversations at COP27.

“Adaptation actions are still crucial and essential to improve small-scale, fragmented and reactive efforts. But the potential for adaptation to climate change is not unlimited. And they will not prevent all losses and all damage we have seen,” says Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change.

US climate envoy John Kerry said the US was “fully supportive” of discussing how to deal with loss and damage, which has become a contentious issue at the COP . “We want to engage,” Kerry says. (Read more at The Guardian.)

I start Monday morning by talking about sustainable governance and management interventions in aquatic and aquatic food systems to achieve food and nutrition security in the face of climate change (Food Systems Pavilion, 11:00 a.m. EET, 4:00 a.m. ET, 1:00 a.m. PT). Speakers include Rose Labrèche, Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture; and Darko Manakovski, from the Global Water Partnership. (Live stream HERE.)

We screen the film “Food 2050” at the Food4Climate pavilion (2 p.m. EET, 7 a.m. ET, 4 a.m. PT) followed by a post-screening panel discussion with Sara Farley, Rockefeller Foundation; Rupa Marya, physician and author of Inflamed; Matte Wilson, Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative (SFSI); and Andrew York, Media RED. (Live stream HERE.)

And we’ll immediately dive into three very special panels on gender equality and women’s empowerment in food systems, with an incredible lineup of women leaders: Women Leading the Future of Food with Chief Caleen SiskSpiritual Leader and Hereditary Chief, Winnemem Wintu Tribe; Shannon Cosentino-RoushEndless feeds; Katie McCoshanFood and Land Use Coalition, World Resources Institute; Therese Lieb, GreenBiz; and Jennifer Stojkovic, Vegan Women’s Summit. Women in food, climate, technology and finance with Dr. Lee RechtAleph Farms; Patty Fong, Global Alliance for the Future of Food; and Rane Cortez, Nature conservation. And finally, Rethink nutrition with Nicole PitaIPES-Food; Juliette TrochonProVeg International; Eirini Pitsilidi, Compassion for World Agriculture; and Satya S. Tripathi, Global Alliance for a Sustainable Planet. (From 4:10 p.m. EET, 9:10 a.m. ET, 6:10 a.m. PT live stream HERE.)

If you’re on the ground in Egypt, we’d love for you to come say hello! And for those logging in remotely, thank you so much for following us. Listen to any conversations that might fit your schedule and don’t forget to share your reactions using #FoodCOP27.

What I think about as the COP27 negotiations continue:

  • The food cold chain is often overlooked, but it has a significant impact on the environment. Emissions from food loss and waste due to lack of refrigeration totaled about 2 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. (Read more at FAO News.)
  • At COP15 in Copenhagen, developed countries pledged to channel $100 billion a year to less wealthy countries by 2020, to help them adapt to climate change and mitigate further temperature rises . This promise was not kept. Today, “the choice is between adapting or starving,” says IFAD Regional Director Dina Saleh. (Read more on UN News.)

Powerful quotes from today’s talks:

  • “Women are an integral part of the entire food system, from production to household consumption and food disposal.” — Mansi Shah, Research, Documentation and Design Consultant, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA)
  • “We should not wait for a crisis to discuss food and agriculture and the links to climate and other issues.” — Saswati Bora, Global Director of Regenerative Food Systems, The Nature Conservancy

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Photo courtesy of Naseem BurasUnsplash

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