Above Photo: For the first time, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathered in these days in Egypt will address food systems and agriculture. EPA-EFE / SEDAT SUNA.
Farming initiatives at COP27 will be dominated by agri-business players and will lack farmers’ voices, sustainable campaigners and small-holders organisations have warned ahead of the global summit’s day devoted to agriculture.
For the first time, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathered in these days in Egypt will address food systems and agriculture.
A dedicated Agriculture and Food Pavillion at the COP27 premises has been set by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the global partnership Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and the philanthropic organisation Rockefeller Foundation.
On Saturday (12 November), two initiatives will be discussed at the pavilion: the Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) by COP27 organisers in partnership with the FAO and the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate) launched at the previous COP26 by the US and the United Arab Emirates.
However, some organisations have raised the alarm over agribusinesses dominating the agenda.
“If we look at who the actors involved are, as well as at the kind of solutions that are being proposed at this COP, they’re not going to be particularly effective,” said Shane Holland, chairman of the UK section of the global organisation promoting traditional cooking Slow Food.
Likewise, Chantal Wei-Ying Clément, deputy director at the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), complained that these initiatives “were largely made up by and centred around agribusiness and agribusiness players.”
Lack Of Farmers’ Voice
Other participants have highlighted the lack of communities and farmers’ voices at the summit. For Saskia Nuijten, director of communications at the EU-funded food innovation community EIT Food, the summit is ‘not completely inclusive’.
“We have made big steps, but from the farmers’ perspective, they could be more included in the discussions,” she said.
According to Holly Tomlinson from the UK-based union of agroecological farmers and other land workers Landworkers Alliance, people at COP27 are “talking about farmers, rather than farmers talking.”
“For a lot of the proposals, the discussions are held without any understanding of the impact on the ground. This particularly affects small-scale peasant farmers and indigenous people,” she continued.
This aspect was also stressed by the peasant farmers’ organisation La Via Campesina which released a statement earlier this week stressing that “COP27 is leaving very little room for organised communities to speak truth to corporate power.”
Most Complex Topic At COP27
Despite food and farming producing over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, the issue has been downplayed in previous summits.
One of the reasons behind it is precisely the complexity and diversity of actors in this field.
“The reason why food has been ignored at COP until now is that food systems’ issues are inherently complex,” said IPES Clément.
However, she claims that “an incredibly active food movement pushing to put food on the COP agenda for years” and “the ongoing and worsening impacts of climate change on food systems” have put food up on the agenda.
Slow Food UK’s chairman added that, compared to other topics at COP, the issue of food systems “is more challenging politically because it weaves in culture and so many other things beyond food.”
He remarked that “the easier things to tackle, like power generation, were tackled fairly early on. Now, we need to look at what is probably the most tricky of all.”
Farmers’ organisations present at COP released a statement reiterating that “the agricultural sector is the only one able to mitigate and adapt to climate change at the same time.”
They request the creation of “a cross-boundary, permanent body that includes all aspects of agriculture” under the convention and the increase in climate finance investments in agriculture and forestry.
Organisers of COP27 wanted to give more relevance to adaptation and repairing the damage caused by climate change.
However, some stakeholders keep stressing that the current system is not fit for purpose and that more investment is needed to tackle food systems.
EIT’s Nuijten told EURACTIV that she expects “greater investment in innovation and support for farmers” from COP27.
She also wants the summit to “raise awareness, for instance, on food labelling that accounts for the climate footprint of food products” but admitted that the food system “needs to be transformed,” as the current model is ‘unsustainable’.
From a farmers’ perspective, Landworkers Alliance’s Tomlinson is not optimistic about the outcomes of COP27.
“The entire framework has got so much injustice built into it to start with, even just having COP at an expensive resort in Sharm el Sheikh means that very few people can afford to attend,” she concluded.