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Emirates Leaders Declaration at COP 28 an Important Step in Advancing Resilient Food Systems

December 1, 2023

IISD welcomes the Emirates COP28 Leaders Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, which was announced at the 28th UN Climate Change Conference (COP 28) today. This declaration marks a historic milestone as the first-ever leaders’ level declaration on food systems and climate at a COP, underscoring the unique and crucial role food systems play in either driving or mitigating climate change—as well as adapting to its impacts.

The declaration, so far endorsed by 134 heads of state and government and including large food-producing countries such as Brazil, the United States, and China, highlights increased attention on food systems and agriculture within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It calls for better coherence between food systems transformation and our response to climate change. It also demonstrates the growing political will to scale up research and innovation on sustainability in food systems and agriculture in a way that incorporates the knowledge of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. It underscores the need to scale up the availability of—and access to—financial support for food systems transformation. 

In particular, IISD welcomes the acknowledgement in the declaration of the interlinkages between climate and biodiversity, and the emphasis on the need to repurpose public policies and support to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and address ecosystem loss and degradation.

The time-bound commitment to include food and land use in nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national adaptation plans (NAPs), long-term strategies (LTSs), and national biodiversity strategies and action plans (NBSAPs) by 2025 is a welcome step toward improving transparency and accountability. This commitment makes it easier to track the progress made by signatory countries and holds them accountable when they fail to act.

The inclusion of a clear timeline for action—with NDCs, NAPs, LTSs, and NBSAPs set to be updated by 2025 and a progress review at COP 29 in 2024—demonstrates a commitment to timely, measurable, and accountable action. The Non-State Actors Call to Action for Transforming Food Systems for People, Nature, and Climate, launched in parallel with the Emirates Declaration, came together with a common purpose to reshape food and agriculture, positioning them as pivotal solutions to the challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and food insecurity.

We are hopeful that the declaration raises ambition for negotiated outcomes at COP 28, including a concrete work plan and coordination structure for the Sharm el Sheikh Joint Work on Agriculture and recognition of the critical role of food systems in the global stocktake decision text. 

However, the declaration could have gone further to encourage the urgent phase-out of fossil fuels. While it calls on signatories to reorient public support to promote activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in food systems, it must be explicit about the pressing need to phase out the use of fossil fuels within our food systems. Recognizing the interlinkages between food systems and energy systems transformation is imperative—they must occur in tandem if we are to successfully meet the targets of the Paris Agreement and limit warming to 1.5°C or less.

We encourage those heads of state and government who have not yet endorsed the declaration to come forward and do so before the close of negotiations.