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Dispatch From UN Climate Change Conference: Friday, Nov. 18

Columns 2022-11-18, 12:23pm


Danielle Nierenberg

Danielle Nierenberg

It's clear that there is no one solution for food systems transformation, and certainly not for the climate crisis.

Food Tank has always focused on having the uncomfortable conversations—getting those of different backgrounds to embrace the nuance involved in building a more sustainable and equitable food system. Yesterday's sessions were no exception.

"There’s no one good or one bad solution," says Didier Toubia, Co-Founder and CEO of Aleph Farms at a Food Systems Pavilion panel.

Toubia sees cultivated meat as one way to "cope with the challenges of intensive agriculture," supplementing efforts to better support smallholder farmers using sustainable or regenerative practices.

For Estrella Penunia-Banzuela, Secretary General of the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, a just transition for the food system means moving toward more agroecological, sustainable farming practices as well as increasing farmers' market power.

"For many decades, we have been price takers," says Penunia-Banzuela. She emphasizes the need for farmers to exercise their rights, "our rights as citizens of a country, our rights as farmers…and our right to food."

Nico Janssen of the IKEA Foundation agrees, "Food has become a commodity instead of a right."

Policymakers need to become more involved. The food system transition has received much less policy attention than the energy system transition, says Anne Jellema, CEO of Hivos, "yet we know it is just as important to surviving the climate emergency."

In a session focused on the role of eaters as changemakers, Steph Spyro, Environment Editor at the Daily Express, says that clear communication is key to empowering eaters to participate in climate action.

"It’s about taking those big, big ideas and communicating them in simple ways so the average consumer understands," says Spyro.

But the onus cannot be only on eaters—we know that massive systemic changes are critical to building a truly equitable food system. "The farmers are struggling to make ends meet and the consumers are struggling to pay for food…There’s something wrong there," says Lasse Bruun, CEO of 50by40.

I love hearing about unlikely partnerships, such as those between the public and private sectors, to amplify impact. According to Andrea Erickson Quiroz of The Nature Conservancy, "If we don’t partner and find common values outside of agriculture, we’re leaving stuff on the table."

Thomas Thompson of the UN World Food Programme has seen a push to work between governments and the private sector to better food systems, due to the realization that "we’re sliding backward, not forward" when it comes to global food security.

But it's important to think critically about what these partnerships look like. They must clearly align on priorities and long-term goals, says Keegan Kautzky of the World Food Prize Foundation: "We have to make sure the right partners are at the table and that the resources can be mobilized within that system."

And finally, we can't forget to celebrate our wins. We've heard throughout these two weeks about incredible progress since the COP26 talks in Glasgow. "We’re not there yet, but we should be happy about the work we have done," says Brent Loken, Global Food Lead Scientist at WWF.

"And then Monday we can roll up our sleeves and get back to work, because we still have a lot left to do."

Here are some other important takeaways from COP27 negotiations and discussions:

The U.N. published a draft of the COP27 climate deal yesterday, though there might still be days left in the negotiations. Reuters reports that many of last year's goals have been repeated, while contentious issues like loss and damage have yet to be resolved.

"The cover text still needs a tremendous amount of work. We are not in a position to say that this is enough common ground that we could agree upon," Frans Timmermans, the EU's Climate Policy Chief said on Thursday. (Read more here.)

"One negotiator from an island nation who asked not to be named said he was underwhelmed by the draft text and its ‘silence on the critical issue of loss and damage’," Reuters reports.

And more than 150 countries have now signed up to a global pact to reduce methane emissions—50 more than when the US and EU launched the Global Methane Pledge during the Glasgow climate talks last year.

"As of today, we will have 95% of countries that have included methane in their nationally determined contributions," said U.S. Deputy Special Envoy on Climate Change Rich Duke.

The US and EU will also launch other initiatives, including an effort to help smallholder farmers in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Colombia, Pakistan, and Vietnam reduce methane in their dairy systems, as well as research on enteric fermentation.

As the Food Tank team gets ready to head home, I'm filled with gratitude for all of the food system leaders, innovators, producers, researchers, and young people that I was able to connect with these past two weeks at #FoodCOP27.

I hope these stories have offered new perspectives, sparked questions, and left you feeling inspired for the year ahead—I know I am.

(Danielle Nierenberg ia the President of Food Tank and can be reached at