2021's COP 26 UN Climate Change Conference, held in Glasgow almost a year ago, was notable for both what was agreed and what was left to vague interpretation (it was described as both a 'triumph' and a 'wasted opportunity', often by those whose interests are best served by making such simple judgements).
On the positive side, the Paris Rulebook defined how signatories of the Paris Agreement must set out their national determined contributions (NDCs) on emissions reduction. Additionally the conference elicited a commitment from 137 countries to “halt and reverse forest loss and land degradation” by 2030.
On the, "that's a good idea, let's put something in the diary to discuss" side, there was the Glasgow Climate Pact, which set out how climate change should be addressed through a series of resolutions based on the Paris accord. However, this initiative mentions no specific country obligations and carries all the legal clout of a handwritten 'No Parking' sign outside a residential home.
But the elephant in the room, or perhaps the Organic Pasture-Fed Free Range Chicken in the room, was food production...an industry whose contribution to global emissions is variously claimed to be between 21 - 35%.
The absence of a targeted plan for agriculture, and food production in general, the lack of detail on goals related to agri-food, and the failure to specifically address issues on food security highlighted by the IPCC, WHO and UN, seemed to go unnoticed (except by the 1.2bn of us whose job it is to ensure the provision of safe food to consumers - no, no applause please, we're just doing our jobs, honestly...)
However, with COP 27 in Egypt taking place next month, it appears that an attempt to redress this has finally been made. November's conference will include, for the first time, a Food Systems Pavilion, dedicated to exploring strategies and solutions for sustainable food. The initiative will include dedicated sessions on improving agricultural resilience, promoting local food environments, and food technology and innovations. Given the challenges presented to food supply chains by global geopolitics, severe weather events and cost pressures, food security has never been a more important subject for discussion. A genuinely sustainable food system is one which makes safe and nutritious food both available and affordable within an economically viable system in harmony with the local environment...that, surely must be the goal.
Brave decisions and creative solutions are required to fundamentally alter the way we produce, distribute and consume food. COP 27 starts in 21 days, The world is watching.
The opportunity is huge. Transforming the world’s food systems could generate $4.5 trillion annually in new economic opportunities by 2030 and help us to create a net-zero, nature positive world, while also ensuring social justice and food security.