50by40 at COP26

Attribution: Image via UNclimatechange

50by40 at COP26

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) to the United Nations Convention Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was held between 31 October – 12 November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. 50by40’s attendance at the climate change conference was marked by the presence of three secretariat members, two of whom attended the event for close to 10 days. Lasse Bruun, Shweta Sood and Charlotte Fletcher were charged with influencing stakeholders, amplifying and supporting partners and staying on top of the latest developments in the food systems space. This brief report illustrates the key highlights from COP26 for our partner organisations and network.

Issues with COP26

Several campaigners, advocates and civil society representatives have criticised the organisation of COP26 as the most exclusionary so far. Multiple people from countries in the Global South could not make it to Glasgow due to visa and accreditation issues, lack of access to COVID-19 vaccines and changing travel rules. To add to this, the accommodation facilities in the city were scarce and expensive.

Bird’s Eye View

This year’s conference left many organisations working on food systems feeling bittersweet. Despite being an increasingly recognised source of climate catastrophes as well as a potential solution, food systems failed to feature prominently on the agenda of almost any official negotiations or events. Widely dubbed as the ‘Nature COP’, Boris Johnson’s agenda of ‘coal, cars, cash and trees’ failed to mention cows or any other livestock.

Encouragingly, however, food and farming were seen as increasingly common topics at side events, meetings and in casual conversations throughout the conference. Organisers of COP26 also hosted a 12-day zone titled Recipes for Resilience, which discussed food and climate issues. However, this zone wasn’t within the confines of the COP venue.

Interestingly, the food served at the COP also offered more plant-based options. All items came with an emissions footprint on each food item. This, however, did not deter candidates from choosing heavy meat-based options, some of which had a carbon footprint that was 30 times higher than their plant-based counterparts.

Even as agriculture accounted for less than 5% of all official negotiations and 10% of side events at COP26, the strong focus on Nature did make for some interesting launches; these include –

  1. Deforestation pledge
  2. Global Methane Pledge
  3. Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, or AIM4C
  4. Nature Positive commitments from Businesses and Nations
  5. Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration
  6. Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program
  7. Food Forward Consortium

Summary of agriculture-related agreements launched at COP26

Two critical agreements emerged from the COP26 summit in the first week – limiting methane and reversing deforestation. At the first significant agreement announced at COP26, more than 100 world leaders representing over 90% of the planet’s forests pledged to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 under the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use. Another agreement made at COP26 was the Global Methane Pledge, which commits signatories to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030 compared to 2020 levels. Despite having over 100 signatories, the Methane Pledge came under criticism for ignoring agriculture’s contribution to overall methane emissions.

Additionally, the controversial Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate or AIM4C was announced with more than $4 billion in increased investments for climate-smart agricultural innovation from 30+ countries. The United States and the United Arab Emirates established AIM4C at COP26 to ‘encourage investment in climate-smart agricultural and food systems innovation’.

To mark Nature and Land Use Day at COP26, several agreements on agriculture were announced. A pledge, supported by 45 governments, called for urgent action and investment to safeguard nature and transition to more sustainable farming methods. In addition, more than 100 high-profile companies from a multitude of sectors pledged to be “Nature Positive” by 2030, committing to work towards halting and reversing the deterioration of nature. However, meat and dairy were not mentioned in these initiatives to transform agriculture.

Another big initiative launched at COP26 was the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration. Organised by Nourish Scotland and IPES-Food, and officially presented at Glasgow City Chambers by 100 local governments, the declaration represents subnational governments’ commitment to addressing the climate crisis through integrated food policies. 

The second big initiative of Week two at COP26 was the  Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Program. Led by the World Bank and backed by USD 345 million in funding from the Global Environment Facility, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) and several other partners, FOLUR aims to leverage USD 2.7 billion in co-financing commitments over seven years to enhance agricultural systems and policies. 

Preceded recently by the UN Food Systems Summit, this conference saw the launch of several coalitions such as the Food Forward Consortium and the continuation of high-level fora such as  Good Food Finance Network

These pledges make for a promising starting point for food systems and agriculture, however, the burden of its implementation may rest strongly on the shoulders of civil society. 

50by40 leading the dialogue on food systems transformation 

The 50by40 Secretariat covered lots of ground, physically in Glasgow and digitally via remote coordination with our Communications Manager based out of Toronto. 50by40 prioritised robust engagement with multiple stakeholders and covered different food systems events on the ground to share with the larger network. In addition, we organised one key high-level roundtable dinner and participated and spoke at key events. A summary of our engagements is as below.

  • Newsletters and Media Monitoring – During COP26, 50by40 drafted and circulated consistent communication through four email newsletters to our partners. The emails shared a detailed overview of the latest news updates and partner events on agriculture. Furthermore, throughout COP26, we tracked relevant media stories for the partners and shared them on our media monitoring group. More than 120 news stories and updates were shared by 50by40 and our 25+ partners in the group during this period.
  • Koronivia Joint Workshop on Agriculture Submission – 50by40 and partner organisations made a formal submission to the Koronivia Joint Workshop on Agriculture. The submission asks the UN Member States to acknowledge the role of livestock production towards GHGs and promote sustainable diets and shift procurement policies. Partnering organisations included Brighter Green, ProVeg, Center for Biological Diversity, Food and Climate Alliance, Four Paws, Friends of the Earth US, Factory Farming Awareness Coalition, and Humane Society International
  • High-level Roundtable Dinner ‘Linking Food and Climate to Spur Transformative Action’ on 9 Nov at Glasgow Marriott Hotel – Hosted by 50by40, EAT and FAIRR, the event brought together key actors in the food systems space to discuss the outcomes of the first-ever UN Food Systems Summit and their integration into other multilateral processes and fora, such as the UNFCCC, with a special focus on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). This was the most high-level event organised by 50by40 with an excellent line-up of speakers and influential guests. The aim of the roundtable dinner was to bring key actors together to increase focus on food in climate change mitigation efforts and start building a small constituency to encourage stronger collaboration in the coming years. The dinner was a critical step in strengthening our partnership with other stakeholders in the food systems going forward.
  • Resilience Labs at COP26Shweta Sood spoke at the ‘Envisioning the future of food systems’  event at the Resilience Lab, highlighting the need for a balance between consumption in the Global North and production in the Global South.  The Resilience Frontiers Lab works to enable access to quality, nutritious food for all through regenerative food systems

Partner and Ally Activities

COP26 held an unprecedented number of food events this year. This has been made possible, in no small part, by our partner organisations and allies, who collectively raised the urgency of food systems transformation and intersectionality at COP26. Some of the key events organised by our network organisations are highlighted below*.

*Please note that the list below is a representation of our collective work as a network and not an exhaustive list.

  • TAPCC: Last summer, TAPP Coalition started a Carbon Pricing Food Campaign, focusing on COP26. Through this campaign, an Open Letter was sent to Presidents and Ministers of 50 countries with the most meat per capita consumption, asking them to introduce carbon pricing meat and dairy (for example, a meat tax). Over 5000 companies and NGOs were represented in the signatories from over 100 countries.
  • ProVeg: ProVeg organised several side events discussing potential high impact solutions where stakeholders from academia, civil society, and the private sector came together to discuss various issues related to food. They were successful in driving press attention on food with their campaign #DietChangeNotClimateChange.
  • Brighter Green: The ‘No more Emissions’ official side event, led by Brighter Green, discussed the ways by which policy experts should address food systems issues. It specifically addressed the impact of livestock production on climate and how we can best make recommendations for decreasing greenhouse gases emissions (GHGs) and meeting the goals set by the Paris Agreement.
  • Fair Start Movement: The Fair Start Movement and Population Balance assembled a coalition of dozens of leading organisations to challenge patriarchal and unsustainable family policies that the United Nations continues to promote, despite the climate crisis. Their narrative is now being used more broadly in the media in the wake of our COP26 letter calling out coercive pronatalism that not only harms women and girls but has massive impacts on farmed animals.
  • Hazon: Hazon partnered with EarthX to produce episodes on Jewish environmentalism for the Faith is Green series on Earth TV. This brand new original series details how we can strive to create a more environmentally sustainable world by observing Jewish values such as respect, fairness, responsibility, and community. One episode focuses on Jews and Food and explores how the centuries-old tradition of “keeping kosher” is playing out in fascinating and sustainable new ways in the 21st century, including what it means for animal agriculture. All episodes are available for free and on-demand on Earth TV.

Other partners such as Global Forest Coalition, GreenFaith, Good Food Institute and World Animal Protection also conducted events and conversations that helped further the food systems agenda at COP26.

Other important events at COP26

  • Panel Discussion on Healthy and Sustainable DietsOrganised by Food Tank, WWF, and Nourish Scotland, the event saw Food systems experts exploring the inextricable link between healthy and sustainable diets and public health, local food systems, food workers, and biodiversity.
  • Financing the Future: What’s next for philanthropy in the climate emergency?Organised by Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Food Tank, the session explored how philanthropy can help translate commitments made at global, national and regional forums like the UN Food Systems Summit and COP26 and others – from words and into action.
  • Eat4Change Dinner Organised by WWF, GAIN, EAT, GA, FOLU and One Earth, the dinner brought people together to connect the dots and discuss the positive changes in how we produce, consume and dispose food, which can help tackle the climate crisis.
  • Food Forward: Food Systems Transformation is Essential to achieving Climate GoalsHosted by WWF, GAIN, EAT, and Club of Rome, the discussion aimed to present and discuss the early thinking behind the ‘Food Forward’ consortium and the opportunities it will offer to support the government, private sector and civil society stakeholders.
  • COP26 Philanthropy Roundtable – This roundtable was hosted by Dafne, the European Community Foundation Initiative, Foundation Scotland, the Foundations Platform F20 and WINGS.  Lasse Bruun joined the virtual discussion on how philanthropy can galvanise local action for global impact.
  • The Future of Food Systems: Game-changing innovations for inclusive transformation –  Organised by FAO, WFP, IFAD and WWF, the session discussed the role of four enablers in building resilient, sustainable and inclusive food systems (at the local level) and delivering a hunger-free, prosperous and resilient 1.50C world. 
  • Mobilising finance to address climate risk and restore biodiversity while ensuring healthy diets for all, Part 2 – Hosted by FAIRR and WWF, the event brought together stakeholders from the world of finance, investment, civil society, and food production to discuss how the public and private sectors can work together to mobilise finance to address climate risk and restore biodiversity while ensuring healthy diets for all.

Next Steps

While the focus on food in Glasgow did not make the official talks, it is important to recognise that things have changed for the better. COP26 had more side events, meetings and debates on food and climate than at any COP ever before. That is a good starting point for taking things to the next level as we look towards COP27 in Egypt. The work starts now with the first steps towards enabling a strong conversation on food already at the UNFCCC Intersessional in June. We need to work with multiple stakeholders, including the Food Forward Consortium, The Good Food Finance Network and partners and allies across the movement. It also includes ensuring that Alok Sharma, the UK COP26 President, recommends a strong focus on food in his handover notes to Egypt. 

At the time of writing this, the UAE has made a bid for COP28 which means we are likely to have two consecutive COPs in the MENA region. In addition to being the hottest and driest region on earth, climate-change-induced water scarcity will be a financial burden for the region, costing governments 7-14 per cent of their gross domestic product by 2050. Therefore, in addition to the obvious benefits of mitigating climate change in the MENA region, the adaptation measures needed are enormous. Furthermore, to build resilient food production and economic stability, the MENA region will have to address food systems, focusing on adaptation and mitigation simultaneously. This is particularly pertinent in relation to job creation in the agricultural sector which accounts for the majority of jobs in most MENA region countries. 

It, therefore, seems like an obvious opportunity to have the COP27 presidency lead an ambitious plan to make food – particularly industrialised livestock production – core to the NDCs. Part of that could be to establish a great connection between UNFCCC Loss and Damage and alignment of NDCs and NAPs. And the torch could be passed directly to the UAE to continue regional leadership. Overall, it would be a good step from a geopolitical perspective. However, we need to keep in mind that African nations have raised concerns about the decision to hold COP27 in North Africa instead of Central or East Africa.  Therefore, any initiatives or projects 50by40 might engage in mustn’t be adding to inequality, disempowerment, or any existing or potential conflicts in the region. 

As a network, we have the opportunity to jointly make 2022 the food and climate year. Some partners will continue pushing alternative protein; others will have a stronger focus on Loss and Damage, and adaptation. Some partners will engage decision-makers at the city and state levels, while others will have a federal and international perspective. Some will focus on Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs), others will engage corporations. Focus on Food@COP, biodiversity, human rights, meat tax, animal welfare, food sovereignty, Just Livestock Transition, food waste, health, global equitable food distribution, faith, gender, youth, and so much more. Every single intervention, initiative and campaign plays a crucial role in shifting the food system. The most important thing is that we keep aligning our strategising, planning and target setting and that we support each other. We have a unique opportunity to take collective impact to the next level and together make a much more significant impact than we can individually. 

Thank you for being partners, fellow strategists and movement builders. We look forward to a year of change.

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