COP27: Food, Agriculture and Climate Change

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP27, will be taking place from November 6th to 18th, 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt and online.

The COP is an annual meeting of delegates from nearly every country in the world, where global goals for tackling climate change are negotiated. Individual countries share their action plans for meeting those goals and report on their progress.

As per the Paris Agreement, which was adopted by 196 Parties at COP21 in 2015, the overarching global goal is to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels. In 2021, COP26 resulted in the adoption of the Glasgow Climate Pact, which further defined the necessary efforts to build resilience to climate change, curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and provide the necessary finance for both. This year’s COP27 will be about outlining how these urgent goals will be achieved.

Because this is an event of monumental importance, Regeneration Canada felt it was crucial to lay out why our audience should take an interest in the conversations that will take place, as well as how members of the general public can virtually attend sessions of interest. In this post, we will:

 Define how food and agriculture relate to climate change;
• Give a brief overview of discussions on agriculture at COP;
• Point to food-related pavilions at COP27 whose programming you can watch online;
• Invite you to tune in for a session that will feature Antonious Petro, executive director at Regeneration Canada.


Food, agriculture and the climate

Globally, our food production systems are responsible for a third of all GHG emissions. However, a recent report from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food (GAFF) noted that most countries’ climate plans don’t include any details on how they will take action on food production. The GAFF also found that only 3% of public climate finance goes towards food systems. Meanwhile, vast amounts of public money are spent on agricultural practices that can have harmful impacts on the environment and climate.

“If the global community wants to meet the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement, climate finance needs to fund food systems transformation. This is an urgent issue — even if we halt all non-food-systems-related emissions immediately, emissions from global food systems alone would likely exceed the emissions limit required to keep global warming below 1.5°C in the next 40 years.”
—Untapped Opportunities: Climate Financing for Food Systems Transformation (GAFF, 2022)

At the same time, climate change is already threatening farmers’ livelihood and food security through higher temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events. In addition to lowering the associated GHG emissions of our food systems, it is therefore imperative that they become more resilient to a rapidly changing climate.

The flipside of this sticky situation is that, according to the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report, the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Uses (AFOLU) sector “offers significant near-term mitigation potential at relatively low cost and can provide 20-30% of the 2050 emissions reduction described in scenarios that likely limit warming to 2°C or lower”. In other words, a transformed food system is a key solution to our overarching challenge of turning the tide on climate change.


A brief history of agriculture at COP

The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) is a landmark decision made at COP23 in 2017, which formalized an acknowledgement that agriculture plays a unique role in tackling climate change. The KJWA roadmap involved a number of targeted workshops that took place over the following years, and the resulting conclusions were adopted at COP26 in 2021. Governments officially reached an agreement on (1) the importance of soil and nutrient management practices for climate-resilient and sustainable food production systems, (2) the potential for improved livestock management systems to reduce GHG emissions and enhance carbon sinks, and (3) the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger by designing agricultural systems in line with the long-term global climate objectives.

“The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture […] has demonstrated that climate action is not an abstract concept. Climate action is sustainable soil and nutrient management, it is animal health, sustainable food production systems, and it is the exchange of knowledge between decision makers, farmers, indigenous peoples, women and youth.”
—Eduardo Mansur, Director, FAO Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment

Governments agreed to continue working on agriculture with a view to adopting a decision at COP27. At long last, this year’s COP is making significant space for discussions on our food systems with regards to climate action and resilience to climate change. This can be seen in the thematic Adaptation & Agriculture Day in the main programme on November 12th, and in the multiple pavilions and side events dedicated to these topics.


What to watch

While the main conference programme of COP27 is not open to the public, the side events and many of the pavilions’ programming will be livestreamed and accessible to all. Considering the vertigo-inducing number of events that are comprised in the Convention, we thought we’d single out the ones that should be most relevant to our audience of soil regenerators.

For the first time this year, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is co-hosting the titular Food and Agriculture Pavilion to show how agri-food systems are part of the solution to the climate crisis. The program is available on the Pavilion’s website, and the sessions will be livestreamed and saved on CGIAR’s YouTube channel. To point out only a couple of them, we think our network might want to tune in for ‘Multistakeholder partnerships to tackle the global food crisis through regenerative agriculture’ on Tuesday, November 8th, as well as ‘Farmers as soil carbon stewards’ on Monday, November 14th.

There’s also the Food Systems Pavilion, which will focus on actions, strategies, and solutions across the entire food value chain that have the potential to drive the transformation towards healthier, more resilient, and more equitable food systems. You can find the program on the Pavilion’s website, and the sessions will be livestreamed and saved on the dedicated YouTube channel. Among the 10 thematic days of programming, our audience should take particular interest in the sessions on Friday, November 11th, under the theme ‘BOOST nature positive production and soil health’ and on November 12th, ‘SCALE climate resilient agriculture’.

Last but not least, there’s the Food4Climate Pavilion, which aims to bring food system transformation and sustainable diets to the heart of COP27. We invite you to take a look at the full program on the Pavilion’s website, where you will find a familiar name in the Saturday, November 12th programming. Indeed, our very own Antonious Petro, executive director of Regeneration Canada, will be speaking on a panel titled ’Change Maker Farmers Tackling the Climate Emergency’. Antonious will share insights from the courageous and important regenerative work that is championed by farmers in our network. You can watch this session and the rest of the program live or after the fact on the Pavilion’s YouTube channel.


Additional resources

• Équiterre | COP27
• A Growing Culture + IPES-Food | Beyond Carbon: Covering Food Systems, Climate, and Greenwashing at COP27
• Euronews Green | The first ‘food COP’: Why agriculture is finally on the table at the UN climate summit
• Civil Eats | As COP27 Approaches, a Push for More Attention to Food and Agriculture
• Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy – uprooted Podcast | Talking COP27 Episode 1: Two paths for climate and agriculture
• Accelerating Climate Solutions Podcast | Food Systems with Pavan Sukhdev & Sara Farley