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The final stretch of COP28: Acting for climate justice and transforming food systems

Ministers of Agriculture from the Global South and Global North echo an imperative and just food systems transformation (photo credit: COP28 UAE)

Food, agriculture, and water day at COP28

The COP28 Presidency is focused on food systems, and the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action now signed by 152 nations is a significant advancement in the climate dialogues. The declaration lays out five objectives (what follows is an excerpt lifted from the declaration text):

  1. Scaling-up adaptation and resilience activities and responses in order to reduce the vulnerability of all farmers, fisherfolk, and other food producers to the impacts of climate change;
  2. Promoting food security and nutrition by increasing efforts to support vulnerable people through approaches such as social protection systems and safety nets.
  3. Supporting workers in agriculture and food systems, including women and youth, whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change, to maintain inclusive, decent work, through context-appropriate approaches;
  4. Strengthening the integrated management of water in agriculture and food systems at all levels; and
  5. Maximize the climate and environmental benefits – while containing and reducing harmful impacts – associated with agriculture and food systems

This can be considered as a victory and step forward, as there is a deepened consciousness on the critical role of food and water security in the context of climate action.

In a COP28 Presidency-led event entitled Implementing the Emirates declaration on resilient food systems, sustainable agriculture, and climate action, food and agriculture ministers from the Global South and North, and representatives of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank discussed pathways and modalities to effectively implement the declaration.

The ministers mainly shared planned and/or ongoing initiatives in relation to food security and climate action. Fiji Agriculture Minister Vatimi Rayalu emphasized that transforming food systems is contextual, and that there is no “one size fits all” approach. The ministers also echoed their concern that negotiations have not followed up on the declaration, and only managed to agree on procedures to implement the Sharm El Sheikh Joint Work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security (SSJW).

Henry Musa Kpaka, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Sierra Leone, stressed the plights of Global South countries and how “global food systems is failing to deliver on multiple fronts.” With integrity, he also stated that “we are acting because we have no choice.”

FAO then proceeded to launch the first phase of the global roadmap entitledAchieving SDG2 without breaching the 1.5°C threshold that aims to create synergies on the transformation of agri-food systems. The state of food security was acknowledged, with 738 million people facing hunger in 2022, and how agriculture contributes 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. FAO commits to support countries in implementing the Emirates Declaration, however the presented roadmap lists 120 actions and 30 milestones.

While this is a significant step forward, ensuring that countries can realistically deliver on these milestones is a challenge, given the diverse context of food systems. Industrial agriculture was not given much focus in the event, considering that the industry accounts to 15% of global consumption of fossil fuels.

A low-key Global Day of Action for Climate Justice

Peaceful demonstrations by civil society (photo credit: Criselle Mejillano)

On the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, several civil society groups have been mobilizing through peaceful demonstrations in countries such as the Philippines, Brussels, and United Kingdom. At Expo City, Dubai, however, the protests were quite scattered and civil society groups have expressed their frustrations at the UNFCCC’s restrictions on demonstrations.

Azerbaijan: The newly-announced COP29 host

It is worth looking at the map of the region to see how interlinked many of the challenges are. It is significant that government delegations who are living between wars are able to keep the focus and decorum on the topic at hand of climate change and not collapse into conflagration (image source: Google Maps)

It was decided that Baku, Azerbaijan will be the host of COP29, with UN Eastern Europe groups finally reaching a consensus. This means that the UNFCCC COP will be once more held in a ‘petroleum nation’. According to the International Trade Organization, oil, gas, and related petroleum products accounted for 91% of Azerbaijan’s total exports in 2022. 

With human rights inextricably linked with climate justice, civil society groups have raised concerns over this decision. According to Freedom House, an international organization that tracks the most pressing threats to democracy and freedom around the globe, Azerbaijan incurred a global freedom score of 9/100 on political rights and civil liberties this year. The situation may be dire, but this reinforces the need of civil society to stay engaged and united post-COP28 and beyond.

Ecojesuit reflection: Reconciliation and mission through agroecology

The diagram is designed as part of the Agroecology Criteria Tool (ACT) by Biovision. Kindly note that based on the ACT, “level 1:Increase efficiency of industrial inputs” means reduced water consumption, reduced application of pesticides and synthetic fertilizer, reduced energy use, reduced seed use, and reduced waste.

What is clear in global discussions is that climate justice cannot be achieved without a just transformation of food systems. The suffering and vulnerability of people in accessing food and water are intensifying amid the continuing extremes of climate change.

As Ecojesuit, what are we experiencing in this focus on food and water vulnerability? During the annual meeting in August 2023, “agroecology (in the language of food, water and energy justice) emerged as a common concern that can draw together our actions and collaborations (with the poor), youth, ecclesial networks, civil society groups, and policy advocates for just energy transition and overall climate justice.”

Drawing from this discerning and planning as a network we are “aware that the mission goes beyond us and our ministries. In this shared mission, we seek conversion of our own hearts that strengthens our will and motivation to work together for our common home. This deepens our commitment as we give witness to the human suffering in the most recent tragedies.” In seeking to create greater value, we are discovering that shifting from an understanding of what we need, we can now seek to collaborate and become what can only be achieved if work together.

Agroecology becomes a shared sense of reconciliation with God, neighbour, and creation. This allows the Society of Jesus to participate in the broader mission of caring for the common home, recognizing that the poor and the youth are complementary in providing a context for this process. Agroecology as the core value in caring for the common home draws from the local context and urgency, in which we seek to listen to the Holy Spirit in leading us in the mission. We need the breath of listening and conversation across the Society so that where ecology is deemed integral in the apostolic planning, it becomes a source of further motivation and collaboration.

The question is whether the challenge of the network is strong enough that others would want to engage more broadly. The network’s function has convened social institutes in stimulated discourse, built social capital through bridging, and sought action amongst similar actors. The challenge we are meeting especially with the UAPs is to find ways to work with education, schools and universities, to reach a greater participation that we cannot meet simply as a social network. Increasingly we are challenged to host formal multistakeholder discussions and event participation like UNFCCC COP, identifying and connecting merging ideas around integral ecology and climate change. It is not simply coordinating internal discussions and initiatives, but facilitating external introductions and representing the network. Ecological urgency is now a challenge to the whole Society to answer in a collective way.

Links to where Ecojesuit participated on agroecology, and some (but not limited to) key resources from our partners:

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