COP28: Every Major Food Sytems Announcement & Funding Pledge from the UN Climate Conference

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The number of policy recommendations and funding announcements at COP28 was overwhelming. Here’s a list of all the major food outcomes to help you digest it all.

“Everything that makes campaigning against fossil fuels difficult is 10 times harder when it comes to opposing livestock farming.”

George Monbiot summed it up in his Guardian column yesterday. All eyes were on fossil fuels in Dubai the least couple of weeks, with countries fighting each other to decide if oil and gas are actually bad for the planet, as science has told us consistently and constantly. The resulting document was described as ‘historic’ by some, and ‘weak’ by others.

But this was supposed to be a food-focused COP, with the first dedicated agrifood day and a majority of food being meatless. And whether or not true progress was made, a lot of announcements were. We could barely keep track, but as the summit is over and there’s a moment to breathe (until the fossil fuels take over, that is), here’s a list of every major food-related development at the UN climate conference.

Food systems policy developments at COP28

  • The FAO published its much-anticipated agrifood roadmap to limit warming to 1.5°C, with 120 actions recommended to meet 20 key targets. Measures include cutting livestock methane emissions by 25% by 2030 and halving food waste by 2030. It acknowledged the need to change diets to reduce meat and dairy emissions, but said that plant-based foods can’t be an adequate source of certain nutrients. Plus, only the FAO’s website (and not the report) calls on higher-income countries to cut their consumption. In fact, the report said meat production needs to be ramped up to address health challenges in poorer nations.

    In response, a group of organisations including ProVeg International, Mercy for Animals, Friends of the Earth, and Changing Markets Foundation – as well as Green Queen – highlighted gaps in the roadmap in a joint letter. “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,” said Stephanie Maw, policy manager at ProVeg.

    “I call this approach guillotine syndrome,” wrote Monbiot on the report’s suggestions to cut livestock emissions. “There might be a slight improvement in efficiency, but it’s still decapitation.” He added: “Following the report it published this week, I feel I can state with confidence that the FAO is a major cog in the meat misinformation machine.”
  • The final Global Stocktake text was published, and it included mentions of food or agriculture in both the mitigation and adaptation sections. But this almost didn’t happen, with previous drafts removing any mention of food systems at all. It’s an encouraging start and gives countries something to work with, but there is a long way to go before we can be sure of a transformative outcome.

    A group of over 100 organisations issued a statement, and they were not impressed: “‘Food’ appeared three times, in rote recitations from the Paris Agreement. This entirely fails to capture the importance of food systems that was extensively documented in the two-year global stocktake’s technical phase meant to inform the final outcome.”
  • 160 countries and territories signed the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action – encompassing more than 75% of all food-based greenhouse gas emissions and over 70% of all food consumed. This was an encouraging way to start the summit, but these commitments have to turn into action – there are plenty that haven’t!

    Reacting to the news, João Campari, global food practice leader at WWF, said: “This commitment keeps the hope alive, but it must urgently lead to action to protect, sustainably manage and restore landscapes, seascapes and riverscapes that are critical to sustain life on Earth – particularly those being degraded by unsustainable food systems.”
  • The WWF was also one of over 150 non-state actors who signed a Call to Action for the transformation of food systems for people, nature and climate. The signatories spanned groups like farmers, Indigenous populations, businesses, civil society organisations, cities, philanthropies, and financial and research institutions – including Nestlé, Unilever, Danone, Rockefeller Foundation, CGIAR, World Farmers Organisation and NYC Mayor’s Office of Food.

    “Climate change poses an enormous threat to farmers and food production,” said Elizabeth Nsimadala, a Ugandan smallholder farmer and president of the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation. “We need greater recognition of farmers, with a particular focus on women and youth, as equal partners in addressing this global challenge.”
  • Endorsed by 143 countries, the COP28 UAE Declaration on Climate and Health highlighted the importance of food systems for climate and health, noting – in the second paragraph, no less – “the urgency of taking action on climate change” and “the benefits for health from deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions… and shifts to sustainable healthy diets.”

    “The climate crisis is a health crisis, but for too long, health has been a footnote in climate discussions,” said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. In a joint statement, a group of animal advocacy organisations added: “Countries must now act to support sustainable food production as well as sustainable diets – through public education, government legislation and fiscal incentives in order to deliver effective, long-term solutions”
  • Negotiations around coordination and governance on the Joint Work on Agriculture and Food Security (SSJW) – a three-year-old collaborative roadmap addressing gaps in agriculture and food security – reached an impasse. Talks concluded with no progress, and the next meeting isn’t until June 2024, which is a major blow to farmers and producers.

    WWF’s Campari said: “An opportunity to take a big step forward on climate action has already been wasted – negotiators can’t squander another by excluding food systems transformation from the Global Stocktake. It has to be reinstated – and meaningfully.”
  • The Global Goal on Adaptation also featured a mention of food and agriculture, urging countries to achieve climate-resilient food and agricultural production, supply and distribution, and increasing sustainable and regenerative agriculture and equitable access to food and nutrition. But there’s no mention of small-scale family farmers (responsible for producing a third of the world’s food).

    “The GGA has some nice food and agriculture elements too, including strong language on nutrition for all – a crucial goal on its own, which also happens to encompass many of the key elements of resilient and sustainable food systems,” said Avery Cohn, partner, food and agriculture at Ode Partners. Paul Newnham, executive director of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, added: “It’s encouraging to see food making it into the GST and GGA, but we need more for mitigation so that food systems transform to deliver good food for all without damaging our planet. We’ve made progress, but still have a way to go.”
  • Six food giants – Bel Group, Danone, General Mills, Kraft Heinz, Lactalis USA, and Nestlé – formed the Dairy Methane Action Alliance with the Environmental Defense Fund to help dairy farmers reduce methane emissions and make farming more sustainable.

    It’s “a step in the right direction”, but needs to be followed by clear targets,” said Changing Markets Foundation CEO Nusa Urbancic, calling the absence of dairy giants like Arla, Fonterra and Dairy Farmers of America a “big disappointment” as they’re “opting out of action on their main source of emissions”.
  • The World Economic Forum launched the First Movers Coalition for Food with support from the UAE government, which aims to create a procurement commitment for low-carbon agricultural commodities with an estimated $10-20B value by 2030. It includes food giants like Bayer, Cargill, Tyson, Danone, Nestlé and PepsiCo.

    Manny Maceda, CEO of Bain & Company, said this will enable a shift towards planet-friendly production: “This will decrease the risks associated with required investments in low-emissions agri-food production, make it easier to expand to net-zero and nature-positive technologies, and help farmers adopt greener practices such as regenerative agriculture.”
  • The Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation was launched, with Brazil, Sierra Leone and Norway as co-chairs and prominent members including Rwanda and Cambodia. The goal for the “high ambition coalition for food” is to boost national visions and food systems transformation pathways consistent with science-based targets in 10 priority areas.

    “This vanguard group of countries, spanning the global south and north and representing a variety of food systems, is committed to a whole-of-government approach within national borders,” said Edward Davey, UK head of the World Resources Institute Europe. “Recognising that transforming food systems will look different in every country, members aim to collaborate, share lessons and knowledge, and accelerate innovation to work better for people, nature and climate.

Financial pledges for food systems at COP28

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UAE announced a partnership to support smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Together, they pledged $200M million for innovation, much of it to be delivered to CGIAR.
  • The Gates Foundation will also contribute $7.95M to a Grand Challenges Request for Proposal focused on transdisciplinary approaches to better adapt to, mitigate, or reverse the combined deleterious effects of climate change on health and agriculture.
  • The Bezos Earth Fund announced $57M food-related grants as part of its $1B commitment to tackling the food system’s impact on climate and nature. It will allocate the remaining $850M by 2030.
  • 25 leading philanthropies issued a joint call for a tenfold increase in funding for regenerative and agroecological transitions, and to phase out fossil-fuel–based agrochemicals in industrial agriculture.
  • Norway announced NOK500 million (about $47M) in funding for adaptation, much of it directed towards smallholder farmers, agrobiodiversity and preventing food loss.
  • Kenya announced two major programmes, including a $1.5B partnership with Fortescue to produce green fertilisers, and a $270M partnership between United Green and Kenya Development Corporation partner for a 15,000-hectare sustainable agriculture project. 
  • The Africa and Middle East SAFE Initiative, a $10B public-private partnership between countries and Institutions from Africa and the Middle East, was officially launched. This initiative endeavors to Scale-up Agriculture and Food systems for Economic development in Africa and the Middle East. It has been facilitated by the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).
  • CGIAR secured $890M million in funding to support smallholder farmers in low- and middle-income countries, reduce emissions from farming, and boost access to nutritious, healthy diets. Commitments included $136M million from the Netherlands, $132M from the UK, $100 million from the US and the World Bank each, and $51 million from Norway.
  • Ghana launched Resilient Ghana with a $110M investment from partners including Canada, Singapore, the US, the UAE and the LEAF Coalition for a package of initial programmes and partnerships across four thematic areas. These include sustainable agriculture and enabling conditions that support a just transition, strengthened governance and integrated land use planning.
  • The UN’s International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) and partners launched a new blended financing mechanism to boost support to small-scale food producers in rural communities in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to adapt to a changing climate. The Africa Rural Climate Adaptation Finance Mechanism will provide $200M to poor small-scale food producers and rural microenterprises, while small and medium-sized rural agribusinesses will also access concessional loans through this new scheme.
  • The Green Climate Fund and AGRA launched the regional Re-Gain Programme in Africa, leveraging $100M for smallholder tech and food loss solutions to boost food security while tackling climate challenges.

While there were some promising signs, there’s still a long, long way to go – but we’re short on time. “We need to be brave in confronting livestock production and the dark arts used to promote it,” wrote Monbiot. “We simply seek to apply the same standards to this industry as we’d apply to any other. But when we raise our hands in objection, they are met with fists raised in aggression. That’s the strategy, working as intended.”


  • Sonalie Figueiras

    2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software. In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.

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  • Anay Mridul

    Anay is Green Queen's resident news reporter. Originally from India, he worked as a vegan food writer and editor in London, and is now travelling and reporting from across Asia. He's passionate about coffee, plant-based milk, cooking, eating, veganism, food tech, writing about all that, profiling people, and the Oxford comma.

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