Skip to main content

Food and farming at COP28: What to expect and alliance asks

News | Published  1 December 2023

For the first time food, farming, land, and nature are due to take the spotlight during the UNFCCC COP, this year hosted from 30th November - 12th December in Dubai. While previous COPs have given a nod to our food systems, little has been produced in the way of agreements or commitments on healthy and sustainable food. This year's event however promises action. As COP28 kicks off, we take a look at what’s planned for food and farming and highlight which events to attend to get the dish on less and better meat and dairy.

Food systems in the spotlight

In addition to a day dedicated to food, agriculture and water (Dec 10th), world leaders at COP28 are being called on to sign the Emirates Declaration on Resilient Food Systems, Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Action. This represents the first global declaration on food systems of its kind, recognising intertwined nature of food systems and climate change. It invites national governments to align their food systems and agriculture strategies with their National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), National Determined Contribution (NDCs), and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). Crucially, it stresses that any path to fully achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement must include agriculture and food systems. 

NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement, embodying efforts by each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. As it stands, over 100 countries include actions on agricultural production within their NDCs, yet just 5 include actions on consumption. NDCs are currently doing little to set or incorporate food system emission reduction targets into wider climate goals, highlighting a failure to link diets to climate action. As highlighted in an open letter signed by over 80 organisations, including Eating Better alliance members WWF, WRAP, ProVeg and Compassion in World Farming, the UN’s first Global Stocktake Synthesis Report states that we will not achieve the Paris Agreement goals without urgently transforming our food systems. Signing the declaration will formally acknowledge the role of food systems in the climate agenda, setting a clear way forward for the integration of climate action plans and food system transformation. 

Almost three decades after COP1, a substantial lack of government action or policy implementation persists, as evidenced by our lack of progress on key climate targets. As food systems have finally made their way up the agenda, COP28 presents an unmissable opportunity to turn promises into action. It is imperative that conversations around food at COP28 are carried forward into national government policy, enabling a framework of change for our food system.

Asks from across the Eating Better alliance

COP28 has the potential to lead to far reaching climate and food policy, however it is far from guaranteed. Eating Better alliance members have developed a series of asks and expectations of the conference. Friends of the Earth are calling for climate action based on justice and equity, they will challenge big polluters, and stand in solidarity with oppressed peoples across the world. With specific asks which align with those above, Greenpeace are asking that: 

  • Countries must finally agree to set us free from fossil fuels.
  • The Global Stocktake must conclude with outcomes that kick-start transformative action across the board to limit temperatures to 1.5ºC and respond to increasing climate impacts.
  • A credible finance package that include the launch of a new Loss and Damage Fund and action to make polluters pay

WWF have developed specific asks on food

  • Recognise the vital role of food systems to address the climate crisis in the COP28 cover decision and outcomes of the first Global Stocktake
  • Include food systems approaches in Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Long-term Strategies
  • Incorporate a comprehensive food systems approach in the Sharm el-Sheikh Joint Work on Implementation of Climate Action on Agriculture and Food Security (SSJW)
  • Enhance financial support for climate-resilient, nature-positive, and inclusive food systems
  • Include the phasing out of fossil fuels from food systems in all global and national food-based climate action

RSPB have drawn attention to the progress yet to be made on targets of the Paris Agreement, outlining that the culmination of the world's first Global Stocktake at COP28 presents an opportunity to course-correct and deliver the ambition required to tackle climate change. With similar yet specific expectations, Wildlife Trusts focus on the nexus between food and nature:

  • Commitments to nature-based solutions are needed, with a focus on agroecological farming, promoting more diverse, natural systems to support production
  • Action on prioritising land-based climate adaptation is needed – using natural systems to reduce harm from climate extremes
  • Action on the industry and demand side drivers of harm is needed; for example shifting supply chains, finance, consumption, and food waste. 

Events on Less & Better Meat and Dairy:

During COP28 the FAO is set to release numerous reports, including a global assessment of the greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation options from livestock agrifood systems. Paired with the findings of the first Global Stocktake Synthesis, and the signing of the food system Declaration, the industrial livestock sector and its contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions are due to go under the microscope. However, it has been reported that big meat companies and lobby groups will have a strong presence at the conference, with alleged plans to promote meat as beneficial for the environment. Whilst this can be true in nature-friendly forms of farming, it is important to remain steadfast in the science in order to detangle fact from fiction. 

To help understand what is going on at COP and those attending can engage, we’ve put together a list of events where meat production, consumption and alternatives are due to be examined: 

Food Systems Pavilion: 

Global Launch of EIT Food Policy Brief “Accelerating Protein Diversification for Europe” Saturday 9th Dec 8.15–9.15 +4 GMT

Harvesting Solutions: Cultivating a Sustainable Future through Methane Reduction in the Agrifood Sector, Saturday 9th Dec, 9.30–10.30 +4 GMT

Diversification Tipping Point: A Call to Action from Singapore, Denmark, Israel, and The Netherlands Saturday 9th Dec, 11.00–12.00 +4 GMT

Cultivating Change for a Food Secure World​ Saturday 9th Dec, 14.00–15.00 +4 GMT

Balancing the Plate: Healthier Diets for a More Sustainable World Saturday 9th Dec, 15.30–16.30 +4 GMT

Food and Agriculture Pavilion: 

Analyzing global commitments on food security and diets Saturday 2nd Dec,12:30 - 13:30 +4 GMT

A just transition to more sustainable and healthy livestock production systems Tuesday 5th Dec, 14:00 - 15:00 +4 GMT

National actions for climate and food: Launch of new NDC guidance tool for Agriculture and Food Systems Tuesday 5th Dec,15:30 - 16:30 +4 GMT

Less emissions with better livestock production: Climate solutions for sustainable livestock transformation Friday 8th Dec,12:30 - 13:30 +4 GMT

A COP Week 2 Waystation for Those Raising the Ambition on Food Systems: The State of Food Systems at COP 28 and the Road to COP 30 Friday 8th Dec, 17:00 - 18:00 +4 GMT

From commitment to action: How can existing initiatives and tools help advance the COP28 Food Systems Transformation Agenda?  Saturday 9th Dec, 16:00 - 17:15 +4 GMT

Financing nutrition for a healthier climate: The power of sustainable diets Monday 11th December 17:00 - 18:00 +4 GMT

Food4Climate Pavilion: 

Transforming consumption: The methane snail race: How big meat and dairy companies are lagging behind in the critical decade for methane action  Saturday 2nd Dec 10.00 – 10.45 GMT+4

A Call to Action for the Health Ministerial: We Need Healthy Diets for Healthy People & Planet Saturday 2nd Dec, 11.15 – 12.00 GMT+4

The Role of Plant Foods in Transitioning to a Sustainable Food System Saturday 2nd Dec 14.00 – 14.45 GMT+4

Other interesting events on food and farming can be found on the pavilion schedules here, here and here.