Cities Inspire Food and Climate Action at COP28

By |2024-01-05T13:00:00+01:00December 15th 2023|Gender and Inequalities, Resilient Cities and Climate|

This year’s COP28 finally recognises the vital connection between climate action and food, as Peter Defranceschi explains, with cities and mayors taking the lead in driving transformative change.

Never before has there been an international climate conference that emphasises the urgent need to not only put food on the table but also include it in climate negotiations. Indeed, COP28 stands out with its unique approach, featuring a dedicated Food Day. The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, officially endorsed by the Council of the European Union, clearly states that “any path to fully achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement must include agriculture and food systems (…) Agriculture and food systems must urgently adapt and transform in order to respond to the imperatives of climate change.”
This is good news as ICLEI CityFood, together with many other organisations, has been urging national governments to link food to their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). There is a high likelihood that this will become a reality by COP30 in Brazil.

Cities Taking Charge: The Fight for Food Security and Resilient Systems

Putting this into context, the role of cities in driving food and climate action is paramount. A staggering 70 per cent of total food production is consumed by cities, endowing them with enormous potential for reduction in terms of both food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. The crux of the matter is that the food and climate battle will be won or lost at the city level. The key lies in fostering strong and effective collaboration between national and local.

Currently, only a few NDCs holistically address food systems with comprehensive value chain targets, including consumption and food waste. Cities are natural allies of national governments to ensure food security and resilient food systems—and they are not idly waiting for change. Action is already underway.

They have the power to showcase good practices, demonstrating how local food and climate action can lead to the transformation needed at a national and global scale. Recent reports, such as the IPES Food Report ‘From Planet to Plate’, highlight inspiring examples and stories of effective on-the-ground action. These include  “cutting emissions by promoting healthy and sustainable diets, reducing food waste, shortening food chains, training organic farmers, and ensuring their poorest inhabitants can access healthy and sustainable food.” (IPES Food Report, 2023)

ICLEI CityFood: A Decade of Driving Change in Urban-Rural Food Systems

Cities have emerged as leaders, demonstrating their commitment to addressing the global climate crisis through ambitious projects and policies. Their agile and adaptable structures enable them to pilot innovative models and solutions.

Established sustainable urban food programs, like ICLEI CityFood, have been supporting small and large pioneer cities for over a decade in taking action on resilient urban-rural food systems. ICLEI CityFood applies a triple H approach, focusing on Healthy People, Healthy Landscapes, and Healthy Climate. Understanding that the climate crises are intertwined with the food and biodiversity crisis, the effective solution combines climate, nature and food.

In this context, the COP Presidency hosted a session on 6 December titled “Cities Leading the Way on Sustainable Food and Climate” to demonstrate how cities are taking the initiative to transform their food systems and drive climate action. Co-led by ICLEI CityFood, C40 and the High-Level Climate Champions, mayors and city leaders alongside youth activists, food and advocacy experts emphasised the essential role of multi-stakeholder leadership on the ground to bring about this change. Discussions revolved around the urgency of reforming our broken food system to take collaborative action and the need for more substantial commitments from governments at all levels to create a sustainable and resilient future.

Mayors Lead Charge in Food System Transformation for COP30

Fabrício Muriana, Co-founder and Associate of Instituto Regenera, explained the very basic infrastructural challenges in providing locally produced food in the Amazonas town of Belém, the future host of COP30.

The Mayor of Quelimane, Mozambique and ICLEI Global Board Member Manuel de Araújo, shared an empowering sustainable food initiative, connected to the impactful AfriFoodlinks project. Deputy Mayor Joosep Vimm from the European Green Capital Tallinn illustrated how they successfully link nature, food and climate through sustainable procurement and food education.

Looking ahead to COP30 in Brazil, the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, announced on 1 December and signed by over 130 world leaders, lays the groundwork for food to finally find its place in national climate action pledgesCities and mayors emerge as natural allies on this journey, serving as essential partners in driving food system transformation and climate action.

Peter Defranceschi
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