EAT at COP22 in Marrakech to promote the linkages between food systems, nutrition and climate change.

Published November 23, 2016

Over the past two weeks, global leaders gathered in Marrakech, Morocco to advance the climate agenda at the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). EAT’s Policy Director, Dr. Sudhvir Singh was present in Marrakech to promote the linkages between food systems, nutrition and climate change.

The COP22 conference claimed to be the “COP of Action”, focusing on adaptation, technology transfer, mitigation and capacity building to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement. As Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Program argued, now is the time “to translate global agreements into measures that have a tangible, positive impact on people’s lives”.

Agriculture, forestry and land use change are responsible for just under a quarter of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and according to Dr. Sudhvir Singh “we need to rapidly decarbonize the food system to achieve the Agreement set at COP21 in Paris last year. This represents both challenges and opportunities in feeding the world’s population”.

The Paris Agreement recognises the importance of food security as part of the international response to climate change, but agriculture is not explicitly mentioned in the original text. Food production needs to be on the political agenda to meet the interlinked goals of tackling climate change and improving food security and nutrition.

«“COP22’s focus on action provided the chance for food system solutions to be in the spotlight”» Dr. Sudhvir Sing, EAT Policy Director

This year, three promising efforts were initiated during COP. For the first time, health and environment ministers gathered together to sign the joint Ministerial Declaration on “Health, Environment and Climate Change”. The right to health is central in global climate actions and the declaration aims to gather momentum around the interlinked nature of health and environmental challenges. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost one quarter of the global burden of disease is attributable to avoidable environmental risk factors, and climate change, exacerbates these risks. The declaration recognizes the need for “an integrated and inter-sectoral approach”, encouraging policy coherence in the areas of health, food, environment and equity. “By working together, across sectors, and with partners, we can help ensure that people – their livelihoods, wellbeing, and particularly their health – are at the centre of the response to climate change”, says WHO Director General, Margaret Chan.

Secondly, a month before the COP22 conference, delegations from 27 African countries met in Marrakech to confirm commitment to the recently launched Adaptation of African Agriculture (AAA) Initiative. Aiming to reduce the vulnerability of African agriculture to climate change, it was identified as one of the Moroccan presidency’s priorities at COP22. The initiative represents an important response towards climate change and food security, and demonstrates how agriculture can be put at the centre of our response to climate change.  

Finally, Dr. Singh highlights the launch of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) Partnership – an effort to facilitate cooperation and drive action to deliver on both the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The partnership enables governments and international institutions to technically and financially support countries to meet the goals as quickly as possible. The partnership could also encourage countries to measure and report on agriculture, food system and nutrition indicators as part of their NDCs. EAT is looking forward to the implications and advancements this may have for food systems monitoring.

Dr Singh concludes:

«“This year we have finally seen the links between health and climate change underlined at COP. Now we must continue to accelerate the recognition and uptake of policies that promote healthier diets from sustainable food systems.”»