The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action was formally announced and endorsed at the “Transforming Food Systems in the Face of Climate Change” event at the UN Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) COP28 in Dubai.
During the opening week of COP28, food systems were discussed as an important topic. More than 130 countries – representing over 5.7 billion people, 70% of the food we eat, nearly 500 million farmers, and 76% of total emissions from the global food system – signed a declaration to include emissions from agriculture and farming into their national plans to tackle climate change. In addition, a group of 25+ leading food and agriculture organizations joined forces to scale regenerative agriculture, partnering with 3.6 million farmers to accelerate the transition of over 160 million hectares to protect the soil and limit carbon emissions. Over $2.5 billion has been mobilized by the global community to support the food-climate agenda, H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment and COP28 Food Systems Lead, announced during the session.
COP28 priorities for food systems
- There needs to be a rebalancing of public climate finance towards food systems, and companies will need to pursue a robust Global North and Global South engagement strategy.
- Social equity should be at the heart of adaptation given the vulnerability of farmers and other local workers to the changes.
- By diversifying their sourcing strategies and value chains, and reducing food waste, food companies can help stabilize food prices and protect against future shocks.
- The UAE and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launched a $200 million partnership for Food Systems, Agriculture Innovation and Climate Action, focused on agricultural research, scaling agricultural innovations and funding technical assistance for implementing the Declaration.
- Addressing both global emissions and protecting the lives and livelihoods of farmers living on the frontline of climate change are core elements of the COP28 Food Systems Agenda.
It will be imperative for food companies to invest in technologies and delivery models that prioritize climate-smart production, such as disease- and drought-resistant seeds. Forecasts show that agricultural production needs to be at least doubled by 2050 to feed the growing population and prevent mass food shortages.Businesses that employ advanced tech solutions can contribute to solving these challenges, eradicating hunger, and improving food and agriculture systems. While implementing sustainable practices and partnering with other actors throughout the agricultural value chain, business solutions in tech such as empowering small farmers, increasing agricultural productivity and farmers’ livelihoods, raising consumers’ awareness, and increasing agricultural investment will be necessary elements to enhance global food and agriculture systems.
The new book Tech for Good: Imagine Solving the World’s Greatest Challenges presents many examples of businesses addressing worldwide hunger issues. AI and robotics hold great promise in improving crop productivity, boosting resilience, and optimizing food distribution. Biotech startups like NRgene are using machine learning and genetic sequencing to boost crop performance. Phytech is another company optimizing crop production with insights and warnings it sends to farmers’ smartphones. The agricultural sector is a prime example of industry using IoT-enabled tech in sustainable business. IoT-based smart farming presents solutions to global food security challenges, as is exhibited by the USA-based startup Smartcultiva which delivers a set of sensors, connected devices, and software for farm management. Smartcultiva is just one startup harnessing the tech to address this issue. The advanced nano-sensing IoT devices are integrated with proprietary AI software capabilities to monitor and control the indoor farming environment, targeting micro farmers, agro-businesses, and indoor-controlled space farming for the future.
Recent assessments from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) highlight the crucial role of addressing agriculture and food systems in an impactful global response to climate change. “Global food systems are broken — and billions of people are paying the price,” announced UN Secretary-General António Guterres earlier this year. “More than 780 million people are going hungry while nearly one-third of all food produced is lost or wasted. More than three billion cannot afford healthy diets.” In addition to advancing technology in a purpose-driven manner to address global food shortages and nutrition deficiencies, sound global governance will also be imperative to accelerate forward movement and ensure collective success. As we enter the second half of COP28 UAE, let us seize the opportunity to make progress on applying Tech for Good as a way to help solve our global food and climate challenges.