It’s hard to believe that it’s almost 12 months since COP26 took place. Perhaps that’s because even though we were still amid a pandemic, what has happened politically and economically in the ensuing year – with a new reign instilling further change – has set a new precedent.
From 6 to 18 November, Heads of State, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, mayors, civil society representatives and CEOs will meet in Sharm el-Sheikh for what is hailed as “the largest annual gathering on climate action” for COP27.
Its agenda will be built on the outcomes of COP26 to deliver action on critical issues which are causing a climate emergency – cutting greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as ensuring pledges to finance climate action in developing countries are delivered.
A growing energy crisis, record greenhouse gas levels, and increasing extreme weather events will spearhead the UN climate conference as it seeks what it calls “renewed solidarity between countries, to deliver on the landmark Paris Agreement, for people and the planet”.
There is still some work to do; work that will, in the words of the UN Secretary-General, be “as immense as the climate impacts we are seeing around the world,” with the head of UN Climate Change warning that “the cost of inaction is far greater than the cost of action”.
The rhetoric leading up to COP27 is that the event must be used to transform food systems, with the need for a fundamental shift in the perception and overall infrastructure of our food supply system, a shift which must also dictate the food security of millions of people. This is underlined by the IPCC report which was published earlier this year, highlighting the urgency in developing sustainable agriculture.
According to the Egyptian UN Climate Change High-level Champion and the UN Special Envoy on Financing the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, “transforming food systems could release back the $12 trillion the world spends on the hidden cost of food, from transportation to fertilisers. We could also eliminate nearly all of the 8.5% of emissions that come from agriculture . . . my wish is that COP27 provides a pivotal moment for the food and agriculture agenda that highlights and encourages future innovation for climate-resilient and sustainable agriculture practices.”
Last year’s conference was branded “disappointing” by Agri-TechE, a sentiment echoed across the industry, as agriculture seemed to be omitted from the agenda, despite the vital issues of climate change and food shortages which need urgently addressing.
Yet COP27 promises to be different this time round: it is widely being touted as the first ‘food COP’, and will offer relief and reform for food and agriculture. For the first time, there’ll be a dedicated Food Systems Pavilion at the venue, run by a coalition of international food organisations. Addressing the major underlying challenges of the global food system may be something Egypt is keen to push, as the North African nation itself illustrates some of the most pressing challenges in the global food system. It imported 85 per cent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine before the war. A major food crisis is also unravelling due to water shortages on its land which was at one time fertile.
There is no denying that our food systems are broken. The Food and Land Use Coalition (FOLU) estimates that in 2022, over 870 million people face food insecurity and three billion people lack access to a healthy and nutritious diet.
However, thanks to innovation, technology and investment, all isn’t lost. Clear solutions, as those found in indoor farming, are ready to be deployed and it is critical that these are rolled out on the scale needed to avoid global hunger and planetary catastrophe.