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Food finally features in the climate debate. Now what?


After years of neglect, agriculture finally found a place in the climate talks in 2017. Its absence during the lifespan of the United Nations negotiations on climate change was always conspicuous. The world’s poor, the majority of whom farm for their livelihoods, are set to suffer the most from the heatwaves, droughts and floods that wipe out harvests. The likelihood and severity of most extreme weather events analysed by scientists has been linked to climate change. Agriculture and food systems are also responsible for up to one third of total greenhouse gas emissions. Yet we have much potential to farm smarter and reduce emissions while still providing nutritious food for all.

The breakthrough came in the form of a new work plan being set up to discuss issues relating to agriculture, over a two-year period. As the negotiations continued in Poland in December, progress was slow with ways forward still being discussed. But what we did see was increased momentum among all involved in agriculture, to take action into their own hands. If we are serious about climate change, and other global challenges like undernutrition, water pollution and biodiversity loss, we need to transform our entire food system – from production to consumption – over the next decade. So where do we go from here to turn the ideas for ways forward into action?