Was Food the Prize of COP27?
Food and agriculture played a key role in climate change negotiations at the recent COP 27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
It was the first time in more than a quarter century of international climate talks that these systems were prioritized, even as the importance of these systems has been documented and innovation has emerged to meet the existential threat of climate change.
Building on the legacy of World Food Prize Foundation (WFPF) founder Norman E. Borlaug of advancing the human condition by increasing the quality, quantity and availability of food, the WFPF team advocated “putting food on the table” in the negotiations.
Traveling to Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from anywhere in the United States is a bit of a jaunt with a lot of carbon emitted to arrive there. Barbara Stinson, Keegan Kautzky, and I made the trip in November to support the World Food Prize Foundation’s mission and to do our part to keep food and agriculture in the spotlight at COP27.
This purposeful investment in time, money, and carbon was a part of the Foundation’s ongoing objectives, building on the outcomes from the 2022 International Borlaug Dialogue and the Global Youth Institute. The messages coming out of our events were well defined by Samatha Power, Tom Vilsack, Shamaran Abed, Cary Fowler, Manuel Otero, and World Food Prize laureates Rattan Lal, Shakuntala Thilsted, Cynthia Rosenzweig, and Lawrence Haddad to name just a few.
These powerful messengers graced the Dialogue stage in October and carried these critical messages from the food and agriculture community to COP27 in November. We were fortunate to interact with all of them in Sharm, along with a wide variety of our institutional partners including: Clim-Eat, USAID, FAO, CGIAR, Rockefeller Foundation, U.S. State Department, Solutions for the Land, IICA, Rabobank, and many others.
The COP itself hosted a massive number of meetings and dialogue spaces for the nearly 50,000 badged participants. Most advocated for or provided thought leadership around a complex web of climate-related subjects. Far fewer were officially associated with the negotiations. This setup is common at the climate talks, where essential dialogue and thought leadership surrounds the official proceedings seeking international agreements on climate change.
In theory, this type of intellectual energy surrounding the negotiations helps to unleash change and provide necessary momentum to move negotiating language onto the page and from the page into the field. In practice, it can be a bit overwhelming, chaotic and challenging. The sheer amount of dialogue, scholarship, and announcement-making can make it difficult to break through the noise.
Despite little official movement addressing food and agriculture for more than two decades, 2022 saw the proliferation of food and agriculture thought leadership. This year was the first year that food and agriculture pavilions were sanctioned and encouraged.
There were more than five pavilions devoted to food and agriculture and discussions about these systems were woven throughout the COP’s intellectual layer. Showing up and participating in this COP was essential to supporting the momentum.
Throughout our time at COP27, it was clear that food and ag systems must be included in the negotiating text and for food systems to be central to actions associated with climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The interactions and impacts between food and agriculture and the climate are immense in both directions. Food and agriculture must be part of climate action solutions. Without action on food, the world cannot meet sustainable development or climate goals.
The World Food Prize Foundation’s mission is now inexorably linked to a changing world, where food and agriculture systems must now adapt and advance diverse solutions to provide healthy, nutritious and sustainable food for everyone. Coming on the heels of our “Feeding a Fragile World” October events, where COVID-19, conflict and climate took center stage, we were invited to speak or host four events.
WFPF participated in the following sessions at COP27, full descriptions are available below:
Putting Food on the Table During the Climate Crisis (Barbara Stinson, moderator, 2022 Laureate Cynthia Rosenzweig, speaker)
Water Scarcity: The Challenge for Food, Humans, and the Environment (Barbara Stinson, speaker)
Celebrating Young Climate Champions - Next Steps for Youth in Agri-food Systems (Keegan Kautzky, moderator)
Role of Private and Public Partnerships to Achieve a Just Transition (Keegan Kautzky, speaker)
If you'd like to watch the food and agriculture-related sessions that took place at the COP27, links to the key pavilions follow: Food Systems Pavilion, Food & Ag Pavilion, Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas Pavilion, Food for Climate Pavilion, and IFAD Pavilion.
You may also be interested in checking out the programming from the Water Pavilion, Oceans Pavilion, SDG Pavilion, and Children and Youth Pavilion.
Full session descriptions:
Putting Food on the Table During the Climate Crisis
This session featured ways to accelerate the translation of science into action and deliver fresh ideas in partnerships, including with young people. It also highlighted projects that increase farmer income for adaptation to climate change, assess and measure transformation at multiple scales, and take collective action for raising opportunities in rural areas to reduce urban migration. Panelists included those below, and was moderated by Barbara Stinson, president, World Food Prize Foundation.
- Dr. Cynthia Rosenzweig (Columbia Climate School & NASA)
- Purvi Mehta (BMGF)
- Greg Sixt (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
- Muhammad Ibrahim (CATIE)
- Manuel Otero (IICA)
- Leanne Zeppenfeldt, (Clim-Eat)
- Jim Hall (University of Oxford)
Water Scarcity: The Challenges for Food, Humans, and the Environment
This session highlighted the need for action, innovation and financing related to water provision, especially in arid and dry regions of the world, where water food and nutrition security are inextricably linked. Participants included:
- Barbara Stinson (World Food Prize Foundation)
- Ismail Serageldin (World Bank)
- Ismahane Elouafi (Food and Agricultural Organization)
- Dalia Wahba (Hassan Allam Utilities)
- Sue Barrett (Head of Infrastructure for Turkey, Middle East and Africa)
- Rami Ghandour (Metito)
- Adel El-Beltagy (International Drylands Development Commission)
Celebrating Young Climate Champions - Next Steps for Youth in Agri-food Systems
This session highlighted young innovators who are transforming our food systems and empowering other young people to find their power and place in advancing sustainable, healthy, resilient, equitable food systems for all. Moderated by World Food Prize Foundation Senior Director Keegan Kautzky, the event celebrated Sofia Luna Quispe of Peru, Vimbai Kaitano of Zimbabwe and Yuhua Zong of China. In sharing their experiences, they identified key obstacles that continue to limit youth inclusion and empowerment in agri-food systems, and offered a better way forward.
This session was part of a special day of programming championing youth at the Food Systems Pavilion, and was organized by a coalition of youth-led, youth-centered, and youth-serving organizations, including: the World Food Prize Foundation, Clim-Eat, Ypard, IAAS, World Food Forum, Youngo, Rabobank, SNV, Act4Food, Ollas Sostenibles, and many others!
Role of Private and Public Partnerships to Achieve a Just Transition
This session focused on how the private sector, governments, and civil society can work together to build value chains that are inclusive, diverse, and can provide healthy, accessible, affordable, and sustainable food and agriculture systems.
Hosted by Food Tank, the panel included Keegan Kautzky at the World Food Prize Foundation, Andrea Erickson Quito at The Nature Conservancy, Thomas Thompson at the UN World Food Programme, and Naglaa Ahmed at the Egyptian Biodynamic Institute.
Kyle Poorman is the Director of International Dialogues at the World Food Prize Foundation. President Barbara Stinson, Senior Director Keegan Kautzky and Director Kyle Poorman jointly represented the World Food Prize Foundation in person at COP27.