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COP27: How to save food and farming from the climate crisis

For the first time ever, the United Nations Climate Change Conference dedicated a day to food

Food systems account for about a third of emissions, (Photo: Hana Mara, Pexels)

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Farming is feeling the heat from climate change like no other sector and so this was the moment many food folks had long hoped to see. For the first time in the history of climate talks, a presidency devoted a full day to the topic.

The Adaptation and Agriculture Day kicked off Saturday against the backdrop of a global food crisis. Extreme weather is pummeling crops, food inflation is raging around the world and the war in Ukraine strains access to a key breadbasket.

Egypt is feeling all of it. The Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation initiative it just launched is promising to boost climate finance for agrifood systems that desperately need to adapt to a changing climate.

As always, it comes down to money. Food systems account for about a third of emissions, yet only 3% of climate finance has gone into them, a recent analysis from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food shows. Most of the $655 billion in agricultural subsidies have “insidious effects on either the climate or nutrition goals” so they need to shift, said Sara Farley at the Rockefeller Foundation.

Farm funding announcements have trickled in over the past week. On Friday, a US-UAE led initiative pledged $8 billion into greener farming research and development projects. Several philanthropic and governmental institutions have made multi-million-dollar pledges. “Patient” investment is needed to support food production and smallholder farmers’ needs should be at the center, said Jacqueline Novogratz, who heads the Acumen Fund.

The flipside of it all is of course how to tackle pollution from farming. Specifically, discussion of cow burps — which account for a big chunk of global methane emissions — seems largely absent from COP27.

Here lies the crux of the matter — cleaning up farming is a complicated balancing act between cutting emissions without curbing food supplies. That means solutions are needed for alternative food supplies. Several food pavilions at COP27 are showcasing solutions — from vertical farming to dealing with food waste and lab-grown meat. If meaningful progress is going to be made, those solutions need to be scaled up.

Also read | How United Nations plans to make food systems sustainable


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