.
A

s it has in many sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed longstanding vulnerabilities in our global agricultural systems and food supply chains. Policymakers have an opportunity to shape an equitable and sustainable economic recovery through policies that consider previously unseen and ignored costs of our food systems that span present and future harm to the environment, disproportionate financial and health burdens on developing countries, and food’s contribution to diseases.  

As the climate crisis rises in our global collective awareness, leaders are considering ways to protect the health of our agricultural and food systems. They are asking how we can maintain the level and quality of food necessary to feed an ever-growing population while combating further damage to the environment. How can we ensure everyone, especially our most vulnerable populations, is brought along in this process? Our ability to feed ourselves is directly and inextricably linked to the climate change fight.

This year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment declared global warming a direct threat to food production. The State of Climate in Africa, a 2020 report, found that with each flood or drought, food insecurity across sub-Saharan Africa increased between five and 20 percent. After flooding along the Niger River in 2020, whole communities were affected as crops and grazing land for herds were destroyed, leading to intensified food insecurity and populations displaced. In Madagascar, a drought left communities facing the first famine ever to be directly linked to climate change.

In the United States, farmers are shifting their philosophy for growing from “how can I make the most of my fertile soil?” to “how can I make the most of each acre-foot of water invested?” In California, more farms are for sale than we’ve seen in recent decades, indicating farmers comprehend the price tag that comes with transitioning to sustainable agriculture...or the price of not transitioning.

At the same time, agriculture is a major source of carbon and methane emissions, directly fueling the climate crisis. Recent studies estimate our food system accounts for a third of global emissions. But climate change is not just a threat to food supply. Our food is also part of the solution. From adapting use and production of animal feed to reducing water consumption through technological advancements, we are on the brink of solutions that can combat climate change. However, we still lack global cooperation and financial prioritization to make large-scale implementation possible.  

In September, the UN Food Summit convened just one of several pivotal conversations in 2021 that focused on the intersection of climate and food and how we must adapt how we grow and distribute. For the first time, leaders have food at the top of their agendas. It is starkly clear that, as we consider solutions for climate change and our food supply, all countries, developed and developing, are threatened if we fail.

The UN conference convened individuals from more than 148 countries representing corporations, indigenous groups, farmers, and leading voices such as Melinda French Gates. The goal: transforming how we produce, distribute, and dispose of food. The result: our biggest challenge remains defining how stakeholders with historically different perspectives, from private organizations to smallholder farmers to civil society organizations, can collaborate on our collective problem.

We must prioritize multinational resources and invest in research that will introduce ways to address the unseen costs of food. These include investments in water usage systems that sustainably grow crops and raise animals. We need innovative waste management technologies to reduce and reverse carbon emissions, and we must enable farmers to reduce dependence on pesticides and herbicides. Further, experts must tangibly demonstrate the effects of healthy diets on disease prevention. Across all efforts, our investments must bring all communities, especially those most vulnerable, along the process to participate in innovative techniques at the epicenter of sustainable agriculture.

In response to the UN Food Summit, hundreds of food organizations, indigenous, and smallholder farmer groups boycotted the event, indicating that their voices had, in fact, not been brought to the table. But these conversations are not over. Our priority is maintaining the focus on food, calling on leaders to ensure solutions are collaborative and all-encompassing. No single stakeholder—corporation, government, NGO—can do this alone.  

At the UN Food Summit alone, we saw more than 200 public and private sector commitments focused on delivering against the Sustainable Development Goals related to ending hunger and taking action against climate change. During COP26, we expect even more commitments, so we must prioritize keeping this collaboration alive. More importantly, we must call for commitments with definitive actions set against timelines that hold leaders accountable and demand progress.

About
Dan Glickman
:
Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture and chair of APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council, is the former executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan educational program for members of the United States Congress.
About
Judit Arenas
:
Judit Arenas is a senior director and senior adviser to the Founder and Chairman of APCO Worldwide. She is a seasoned public affairs and strategic communications professional with over 20 years of related experience.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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www.diplomaticourier.com

The Twin Crises of Food and Climate

Photo by Radoslav Bali via Unsplash.

November 5, 2021

The IPCC report declared global warming a direct threat to food production. How we can maintain the level and quality of food necessary to feed an ever-growing population while combating further damage to the environment?

A

s it has in many sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed longstanding vulnerabilities in our global agricultural systems and food supply chains. Policymakers have an opportunity to shape an equitable and sustainable economic recovery through policies that consider previously unseen and ignored costs of our food systems that span present and future harm to the environment, disproportionate financial and health burdens on developing countries, and food’s contribution to diseases.  

As the climate crisis rises in our global collective awareness, leaders are considering ways to protect the health of our agricultural and food systems. They are asking how we can maintain the level and quality of food necessary to feed an ever-growing population while combating further damage to the environment. How can we ensure everyone, especially our most vulnerable populations, is brought along in this process? Our ability to feed ourselves is directly and inextricably linked to the climate change fight.

This year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sixth assessment declared global warming a direct threat to food production. The State of Climate in Africa, a 2020 report, found that with each flood or drought, food insecurity across sub-Saharan Africa increased between five and 20 percent. After flooding along the Niger River in 2020, whole communities were affected as crops and grazing land for herds were destroyed, leading to intensified food insecurity and populations displaced. In Madagascar, a drought left communities facing the first famine ever to be directly linked to climate change.

In the United States, farmers are shifting their philosophy for growing from “how can I make the most of my fertile soil?” to “how can I make the most of each acre-foot of water invested?” In California, more farms are for sale than we’ve seen in recent decades, indicating farmers comprehend the price tag that comes with transitioning to sustainable agriculture...or the price of not transitioning.

At the same time, agriculture is a major source of carbon and methane emissions, directly fueling the climate crisis. Recent studies estimate our food system accounts for a third of global emissions. But climate change is not just a threat to food supply. Our food is also part of the solution. From adapting use and production of animal feed to reducing water consumption through technological advancements, we are on the brink of solutions that can combat climate change. However, we still lack global cooperation and financial prioritization to make large-scale implementation possible.  

In September, the UN Food Summit convened just one of several pivotal conversations in 2021 that focused on the intersection of climate and food and how we must adapt how we grow and distribute. For the first time, leaders have food at the top of their agendas. It is starkly clear that, as we consider solutions for climate change and our food supply, all countries, developed and developing, are threatened if we fail.

The UN conference convened individuals from more than 148 countries representing corporations, indigenous groups, farmers, and leading voices such as Melinda French Gates. The goal: transforming how we produce, distribute, and dispose of food. The result: our biggest challenge remains defining how stakeholders with historically different perspectives, from private organizations to smallholder farmers to civil society organizations, can collaborate on our collective problem.

We must prioritize multinational resources and invest in research that will introduce ways to address the unseen costs of food. These include investments in water usage systems that sustainably grow crops and raise animals. We need innovative waste management technologies to reduce and reverse carbon emissions, and we must enable farmers to reduce dependence on pesticides and herbicides. Further, experts must tangibly demonstrate the effects of healthy diets on disease prevention. Across all efforts, our investments must bring all communities, especially those most vulnerable, along the process to participate in innovative techniques at the epicenter of sustainable agriculture.

In response to the UN Food Summit, hundreds of food organizations, indigenous, and smallholder farmer groups boycotted the event, indicating that their voices had, in fact, not been brought to the table. But these conversations are not over. Our priority is maintaining the focus on food, calling on leaders to ensure solutions are collaborative and all-encompassing. No single stakeholder—corporation, government, NGO—can do this alone.  

At the UN Food Summit alone, we saw more than 200 public and private sector commitments focused on delivering against the Sustainable Development Goals related to ending hunger and taking action against climate change. During COP26, we expect even more commitments, so we must prioritize keeping this collaboration alive. More importantly, we must call for commitments with definitive actions set against timelines that hold leaders accountable and demand progress.

About
Dan Glickman
:
Dan Glickman, former U.S. secretary of agriculture and chair of APCO Worldwide’s International Advisory Council, is the former executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program, a nongovernmental, nonpartisan educational program for members of the United States Congress.
About
Judit Arenas
:
Judit Arenas is a senior director and senior adviser to the Founder and Chairman of APCO Worldwide. She is a seasoned public affairs and strategic communications professional with over 20 years of related experience.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.