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Food for a stable climate

Without food systems transformation we cannot keep limit global warming to 1.5 degress Celsius. Right now, food systems generate around 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions. We can't phase out food in the same way we can phase out fossil fuels, but food systems can be part of the solution to the climate crisis. Nature-positive food systems will help reduce emissions and also sequester carbon. But it requires systems-based approaches to realise the potential of food systems to help mitigate climate change - piecemeal actions won't create change.

Through Nationally Determind Contributions to the Paris Agreement countries are committed to action on agriculture and land-use change, but we can only achieve the mitigation potential of food systems if action is also taken on diets and food loss and waste. This will go a long way to closing the emissions gap, but even then we will still experience global warming. Adaptation measures are essential to ensure resilient food production in a warmer, drier world with more extreme weather events, but we must ensure these measures don't inadvertnetly harm nature in other ways.

At COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, WWF championed the role of food systems, calling for them to be placed at the front and centre of climate solutions. We shone a light on some of the overlooked solutions and working with stakeholders from across climate and food systems to build systems-based approaches. In the next 12 months, we hope to see food elevated to the top table and taking its place as one of the most prominent negotiation topics at COP27 in 2022. 

WWF is calling on public and private stakeholders to adopt a food systems approach in all climate action. Essential food-based climate commitments that need to be advanced and result in formal commitments at COP27 include:


  1. Include a Food Systems Approach In NDCs

  2. Include a Food Systems Approach in the Koronivia Process

  3. Halt Conversion of Natural Habitats for Food Production

  4. Commit to Turning Food Systems From a Net GHG Emitter to a Net GHG Emissions Sink

  5. Repurposing Food And Agriculture Subsidies to Reward Actions that are Good for Climate, Nature and People

The principles of inclusiveness, respect for human rights, and improvement of the livelihoods of the world’s poorest populations lie at the heart of each commitment and should be used in all decision-making.


While many countries mention the agriculture sector in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), very few set targets in relation to other stages of the food system, such as food loss and waste reduction, sustainable diets or food consumption.

There are many opportunities to increase ambition in NDCs under the Paris Agreement using the climate change mitigation and adaptation potential of a transition to healthy and sustainable food systems.


Adopting planet-based diets, that are high in human health benefits and low in environmnental impacts, can help countries achieve their climate targets. If there was a globally shift to healthier, more sustainable consumption patterns, food-based greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by at least 30%. Our scientific report and Impact Action Calculator allows national level analysis of GHG emission reductions that could be achieved by national dietary shifts.

Planet-Based Diets
Impact Action Calculator

If we are to reduce land-use conversion for agriculture we must optimise food production, alongside other ecosystem services, and rehabilitate under-performing or disused farmland. That means starting to farm with nature rather than simply extracting from it. The application of agroecology and regenerative farming at scale will help protect nature and create healthy soils, reducing emission from conversion of nature and increasing carbon sequestration in farmland.


Our stories

It's impossible to eliminate all food-based emissions, but we can produce enough healthy and nutritious food for everyone and continue to provide jobs for more than one billion people within a net-zero emissions scenario. Climate action in food systems today could deliver 20 per cent of the GHG emissions reductions needed by 2030. Yet countries are failing to take all the actions available to them - here are six things they could easily do on top of existing climate commitments. Article by Martina Fleckenstein.


When thinking about climate action in nature, most people probably focus on protecting forests, or planting more trees, given the well documented ability of trees to store carbon. But all our natural ecosystems have equally important roles to play, including peatlands, mangroves, wetlands and coral reefs, to name but a few. In particular, the implementation of Nature-based solutions across open landscapes like grasslands and savannah provide opportunities for mitigating climate change at the same time as supporting biodiversity, local communities and their livelihoods. Article by Karina Berg.


We have a wildcard that can buy time and help us avoid dangerous tipping points in the climate crisis. This wildcard is methane, a global warming gs that is much more potent at warming the planet than carbon dioxide, and we can all take action based on what we eat.
Article by Brent Loken


One-tenth of the global population went hungry in 2020, while 1 in 3 adults are overweight or obese. Right now, no countries are on course to meet 2025 global nutrition targets, and global food systems contribute one-third of total human-caused greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

On November 10,  experts gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) WWF Panda Pavilion in Glasgow to discuss what it means to eat a healthy and sustainable diet, and how shifting consumption patterns can help limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.



Grasslands and savannahs represent some of the world’s richest and most diverse land areas, and they comprise more than half (54 percent) of the total land surface. Yet the critical importance of these ecosystems has long been ignored.

At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) Nourish Scotland Pavilion in Glasgow on November 9, experts gathered to discuss global grassland and savannah systems as undervalued assets and overlooked solutions in our climate agenda. 


Discussions around the way food from animals is produced and consumed have become increasingly contentious and binary. At the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) Nourish Scotland Pavilion in Glasgow on November 9, experts gathered to discuss what it takes to produce animal protein more sustainably while maintaining farmers’ livelihoods and food security.


It’s no secret that the way we produce food contributes to many global problems, but it can also serve as a powerful solution. On November 7, food systems experts at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) Nourish Scotland Pavilion discussed how healthy and sustainable diets can drive positive outcomes for public health, local food systems, food workers, and biodiversity.


On November 9, UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) attendees in Glasgow heard food system experts discuss the importance of breaking silos and elevating healthy and sustainable diets to address the world’s most pressing challenges. Food Tank President Danielle Nierenberg shared videos highlighting a few Food System Vision Prize winners, which were selected based on their potential to inspire real, positive, and bold transformation of a food system that is actionable, concrete, and attainable by 2050.


Fertile soils produce 95% of our food, regulate water cycles, and mitigate climate change by storing carbon, but unsustainable human activity is degrading soils at alarming rates. With global food demand set to double by 2050 and only nine harvests before the 2030 deadline for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, we must move from short-term thinking about maximising yields to longer-term planning that invests in protecting our most valuable environmental asset; writes Joao Campari


Nature-based Solutions (NbS) – actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems, for the benefit of people and nature – are being widely discussed by NGOs, multi-stakeholder platforms and coalitions of countries as “win-win” solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises. But implementing NbS alone is not enough. Their success or failure ultimately depends on the extent to which the world transitions to healthier, more sustainable planet-based diets.d systems transformation. Article by Brent Loken



To follow all of WWF's work at COP26 and to read more about climate solutions beyond food visit our main page