Food Systems and Agriculture on the COP28 Agenda

2023’s UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP28) commenced in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). With the ever-clearer impact of climate change being brought home the world over, each successive COP takes on greater urgency. Following 2022's COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, we felt we had fallen short of what was needed to gain meaningful progress on this critical issue.

This COP marked a significant milestone as the first conference with a primary emphasis on the sustainability of food systems and their pivotal role in attaining the goals of the Paris Agreement. In addition to allocating a specific day, 10 December, to delve into discussions on food, agriculture, and water, the UAE, through its COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda, urged global leaders to endorse the COP28 Declaration on Resilient Food Systems, Sustainable Agriculture, and Climate Action.

IFOAM – Organics International was at COP28 led by our President, Karen Mapusua, and delegates from IFOAM Organics Asia and organic farmers from at least three continents representing the Inter-Continental Network of Organic Farmer Organisations (INOFO).

Climate action is significantly veering off course across all sectors, necessitating an immediate transition from mere commitments to active implementation. Our delegates advocated for country representatives to embrace organic agriculture and agroecology in the international climate change policy process. This, combined with a broad food systems approach integrating all aspects and stakeholders along the value chain and beyond, presented a substantial opportunity to swiftly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Such an approach is crucial for maintaining the possibility of achieving a future within the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature limit.

In order to achieve this, countries would need to:

  • include measures to promote and embrace agroecology and organic agriculture as well as support for plant-rich diets, minimally processed foods, and sustainably produced animal sourced proteins into National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), National Determined Contributions (NDCs), and Long-term Strategies,
  • provide access to available financial support including climate funding to create more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable food systems to smallholder farmers who currently only receive 0.3% of climate finance, as well as rural women playing a crucial role in adopting sustainable agriculture practices,
  • agree on a fair and collaborative approach to phase out fossil fuels in food systems by 2050 and shifting to renewable energy for cooling, heating, drying, processing, and transport,
  • adopt a decision creating a Work Program on Just Transitions, guiding national governments on how to design transition pathways in food systems. This would include switching to farming practices that provide multiple benefits including carbon sequestration, farm resilience and biodiversity protection in a just and equitable manner,
  • design national processes that involve multi-stakeholder dialogue, collaboration and coordination, to better meet the needs of food systems stakeholders and support various outcomes that serve a shift towards circular economies,
  • empower youth as the generation of agricultural innovators and environmental stewards driving forward a nutritious, sustainable and resilient food system,
  • support agrifood systems that generate decent employment for rural, peri-urban and urban people, while supplying sustainable agrifood products that are affordable and healthy.

The good news is that, alongside the negotiations process, the Presidency set the following four key goals for COP28:

  • Fast-tracking a just, orderly, and equitable energy transition
  • Fixing climate finance
  • Putting nature, lives, and livelihoods at the heart of climate action
  • And mobilising for the most inclusive COP so far.

The IFOAM delegation did its best to hold the Presidency accountable for these commitments and make sure countries deliver on their ambitions to meet their climate goals. They pointed out how so-called “climate-smart” solutions like the “efficient” use of fertilisers and pesticides would only further entrench harmful industrial food and agriculture systems.

We have successfully included organic agriculture as a sustainable approach to food production that delivers positive outcomes globally in the Non-State Actors Call to Action for Transforming Food Systems for People, Nature, and Climate. IFOAM – Organics International endorsed this call which was initiated by the Climate Champions’ team. 

Event Title Venue Date Time IFOAM speaker
People & Places: agroecology and regenerative approaches from the start Food Systems Pavilion 02. Dez 15:30 Karina David
Farmers and Traditional Producers at The Heart of Food Systems Transformation   Al Waha Theatre 10. Dez 09:00 Karina David and Bibong Widyarti
Ensuring Integrity: who owns, defines, and verifies regenerative food & agriculture systems? Food Systems Pavilion 02. Dez 11:00 Tanveer Sheikh Hossein
International "4 per 1000" Initiative: Let's put Soil Health higher on the international agenda & Act together now Dusit Thani Hotel 06. Dez 09:00 Tanveer Sheikh Hossein, video message from Jan Plagge, President, IFOAM - Organics Europe