I returned home this week from Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, where Food Tank participated in COP27, the United Nations’ climate conference. In the spirit of gratefulness, I want to share one big thank-you note to all the amazing people and organizations who made #FoodCOP27 possible—and to you, for so passionately supporting a better food system.
We spent two weeks in Egypt, convening panels, dinners, and events with our collaborators including The Rockefeller Foundation, Aleph Farms, WWF, Resilient Cities Network, and many others. I want to give a huge thank-you to the organizers of the Food Systems Pavilion, the Food4Climate Pavilion, the Food and Agriculture Pavilion, Nature Pavilion, the UNFCCC, the Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas Pavilion, and so many others who truly made this conference #FoodCOP27. A special shout out in particular to Sara Farley and Roy Steiner of The Rockefeller Foundation and Didier Toubia and Lee Recht of Aleph Farms. I also want to thank The Rockefeller Foundation and MediaRED for allowing us to show a preview of their film "Food 2050," which highlights extraordinary visionaries and experts who are seeking to transform our food systems.
So, with all these inspiring folks and more having made their voices heard in Sharm El-Sheikh for COP27… What’s happening now? How did food and agriculture factor into the intergovernmental negotiations—and where did we come up short? How can we make sense of COP27 and determine what our next steps should be?
I talked to one of my favorite food system experts, WWF global food lead scientist Brent Loken, to debrief from COP27. He kept us all hopeful and optimistic during the conference and has a realistic perspective on what to take away from the discussions and negotiations.
"It’s really two different tales," he said. "One positive from the civil society front, and then a hell of a lot more work that needs to be done on the main negotiators’ side."
I agree. In terms of civil society—organizations, institutions, advocates for change—we really showed our strength. At COP27, I noticed food systems being discussed left and right. Across many pavilions, dozens of panels, countless amazing speakers.
But here’s the thing: That didn’t necessarily translate into the high-level policy decisions that came out of this COP. We did not see the aggressive, ambitious goal-setting we hoped for, neither from governments nor business. A Loss and Damage Fund was established to support climate-vulnerable countries, and ag issues were placed on the UNFCCC agenda, which oversees global climate action—though big agribusiness still dominates over small-scale farmers and sustainable food producers, Food Navigator reports.
At last year’s conference, COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, some large food industry players talked about reaching net-zero emissions. They reiterated those intentions this year—but they still have plenty of work ahead of them, Food Dive reports. The process of stopping harmful climate practices has been unacceptably slow—no thanks to the fact that fossil fuel lobbyists outnumbered nearly every national delegation at COP27, Euronews reports. World leaders came together once again for important negotiations—which focused more on minutiae than the big, bold ideas we need to see, Nature reports.
The next U.N. climate change COP is in 2023, in Dubai. And COP28 might be even more food-focused. But we can’t wait another year to make the changes that need to happen now—changes that should’ve happened already. We built up amazing momentum, and we need to keep up these discussions. We need to focus on continuing to put pressure on elected officials and influential policymakers to recognize the role of food and agriculture in the climate crisis.
"It’s up to us to keep on pushing, with whatever modes we have," Loken told me. "With whatever talents we have. Each one of us needs to figure that out—and push."
My full conversation with Brent Loken of WWF is on this week’s episode of the podcast Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg, which you can find HERE.
Although we still have work to do, I’m so grateful for the inspiring folks who came together at COP27 to spotlight food systems and spark important discussions about the role of agriculture and food in the climate crisis.
At COP27, we heard from youth, farmers, Indigenous folks, scientists, and so many others. Chief Caleen Sisk and Matte Wilson of the Sicangu Food Sovereignty Initiative, who are thinking about how future generations can respect Indigenous practices. Physician Rupa Marya, who’s calling attention to how colonialism shapes the climate crisis. Advocates like Gunhild Stordalen and Helena Wright, who recognize how finance and policymaking can be used to transform food systems. Amazing chefs like Bobby Chinn and Paul Newnham of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, who are using their platforms and skills to change how we approach food itself. Youth leader Xiye Bastida from the Re-Earth Initiative, who is galvanizing youth and securing young people’s place in decision-making. And there were so many other amazing speakers, too.
But most importantly, I want to thank YOU. I’ve said this before—Food Tank only exists thanks to the support of folks around the world who care about our food systems. I’m not exaggerating when I say we literally could not do this without you. Whether you read our reporting, listen to our podcast, attend our events, or support us as a member, thank you from the bottom of my heart. And if you want to become a member, now’s a great time to join HERE.
You can read more about all the folks I mentioned and more over on FoodTank.com, where we have recaps of the important panels and conversations from COP27, plus more original reporting on the food system. I’ll see you next week.
(Danielle Nierenberg is the Presient of Food Tank and can be reached at email@example.com)