In a historic development at the United Nations’ 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) in Dubai, over 130 countries committed to prioritizing food and agriculture in their national climate plans.
This significant move, hailed by observers, comes amid concerns over the apparent silence on the role of fossil fuels.
Food systems, estimated to contribute roughly a third of human-made greenhouse gases, face increasing threats from global warming and biodiversity loss.
The declaration, signed by 134 countries responsible for 70 percent of global food production, emphasizes the urgent need to address the interactions between food systems, agriculture, and climate change.
UAE’s climate change minister and host of the summit Mariam Almheiri said,
There is no path to achieving the goals of the Paris climate agreement and keeping 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach that does not urgently address the interactions between food systems, agriculture, and climate.
The declaration outlines countries’ commitments to strengthen efforts in integrating food systems into their emissions-cutting plans.
Additionally, nations will pursue initiatives to support farmers and other vulnerable food producers, including increased funding, enhanced infrastructure, and developing early warning systems.
It underscores the importance of restoring land, transitioning from greenhouse-gas-emitting agricultural practices, and reducing food loss.
Noteworthy signatories include the United States, the European Union, China, and Brazil.
The 134 nations, home to 5.7 billion people, collectively represent over three-quarters of all greenhouse gas emissions from the global food system, constituting 25 percent of total emissions worldwide, according to the COP28 statement.
The announcement received praise from the US think-tank World Resources Institute, with CEO Ani Dasgupta stating,
This declaration is the moment when food truly comes of age in the climate process, sending a powerful signal to the nations of the world that we can only keep the 1.5-degree goal in sight if we act fast.
However, some critics, including Patty Fong of the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, noted a glaring omission in the declaration for not directly addressing fossil fuels.
Fong highlighted that food systems account for at least 15 percent of fossil fuels burned annually, equivalent to the emissions of all EU countries and Russia combined.
The sustainability group IPES-Food also criticized vague language, pointing out missing concrete actions or targets.
The group highlighted a lack of commitment to shift towards healthy, sustainable diets and reducing overconsumption of industrially produced meat.