The Conference of the Parties, or the Conference of the Signatory States, is the supreme decision-making body of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Its annual sessions aim to promote institutional and administrative provisions and to take stock of progress in various areas.
In the environmental field, there are three key conventions:
1. The COP on biodiversity, signed at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
2. The COP on combating desertification.
3. The COP on climate change.
The latter is the most significant, as it commits states to their objectives, achievements, and the climate agenda in the coming months. From November 30 to December 12 of this year, the 28th session of the COP on climate change will be held. Leaders, politicians, scientists, and civil society representatives will discuss strategies designed to combat climate change.
Representatives of the attending nations will discuss the role of agriculture and food systems in this fight. The choice of a food production and distribution system directly influences the volume of greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity protection, the resilience of actors, and everyone’s food sovereignty.
As part of its support to member states, the FAO has published several summary documents that are recognized resources to fuel the upcoming discussions:
1. A report entitled “Strategy on Climate Change 2022-2031,” which compiles scientific observations on climate-resilient and sustainable food system practices and innovations.
2. The 2022-2025 Action Plan developed for the implementation of the strategy.
3. The guide “Using Metrics to Assess Progress towards the Paris Agreement’s Global Goal on Adaptation,” explaining how to use metrics to evaluate the effects of agricultural transitions on the goals set in the Paris Agreements.
4. A report on the world forest landscape and its economic potential for the resilience of local populations: “The State of the World’s Forests 2022.” The conclusion of this work focuses on halting deforestation, land restoration, and agroforestry development.
5. An assessment of land and water resources in the MENA region, titled “The State of Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture in the Near East and North Africa,” to guide policymakers on agricultural issues in the face of urbanization and climate constraints.
6. A study on the state of genetic resources in the face of climate change: “The role of genetic resources for food and agriculture in adaptation to and mitigation of climate change.”
7. A guide of recommendations to improve nutrition and biodiversity through agri-food system choices: “Climate Change, Biodiversity, and Nutrition Nexus.”
8. The resource “Methane emissions in livestock and rice systems – Sources, quantification, mitigation, and metrics,” aimed at guiding decision-makers toward more sustainable agricultural policies regarding livestock and rice cultivation.
The city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, will host this COP28, a collaborative dialogue platform between continents. In addition to climate negotiations, FAO will organize events and share its expertise within its Food and Agriculture Pavilion.
For several months, stakeholders have been consulted on topics related to combating climate change. Their contributions have helped shape the COP28 program. Themed days will follow one another, with separate events in the months that follow to supplement the discussions.
At the end of COP28, participants will assess the actions taken and identify the obstacles encountered by states in achieving the objectives by 2030. Four key areas have been identified (innovation, inclusion, impacted communities, and financing), which will shape the following themed days:
– Urbanization and Infrastructure
– Youth and Education
– Nature and Resources
– Agriculture and Food
The objectives are to develop future proposals, especially for regions most affected by climate change and those lacking capacity for agri-food production due to limited cultivable land and water.
In addition to sharing experiences, this event aims to assist states in creating incentive policies for food and economic survival and for establishing an ecosystem conducive to innovation and investment.
In Africa, the climate challenge adds to those of food sovereignty and a growing population. The population of the Near East and North Africa region increased from about 70 million people in the 1950s to nearly 420 million in 2020. Projections estimate 633 million by 2050.
The rural exodus across this region increases urban poverty and limits agricultural capacities. Agriculture is a central pillar in the climate change debate; it must both ensure sufficient production and embrace sustainability. To address all these challenges, states rely on data related to resources collected and processed by FAO. The organization provides an overview, describing the availability, utilization, and management of land and water resources, along with the trends and drivers like demographics, urbanization, consumption, and so on.
The recommendations lean towards creating a territorial policy that links the countryside to the city, solutions that combine technology and nature, and a more integrated approach (such as using wastewater as an irrigation resource).
This COP28 will be a new opportunity to address questions that have remained unanswered after previous discussions. In the previous session, the participants accepted the idea of a fund for losses and damages suffered by Southern countries. Since then, states have been unable to agree on the terms of this project: who will manage it, who will benefit from it, and who will contribute? China does not consider its contribution, and Southern states are reluctant to cede control of this new fund to the World Bank, preferring the creation of an independent organization.
In this collective effort to preserve the Earth’s capacity to feed its inhabitants, states struggle to find a balance between mutual ambition and the defense of national interests. The African continent, once considered a “subcontractor,” is now emerging as a partner.
Sources: FAO, Le Monde