© WWF-US / James Morgan
Food for a stable climate

Rapid decarbonization of all sectors is needed to achieve the Paris Agreement. Recent analyses have shown that climate action is not moving anywhere near quickly enough. Across all sectors, we need more urgency and a shift from making commitments to implementing solutions. Rapid action on food system transformation is especially critical given food systems produce around 33% of global greenhouse gas emissions but have historically been overlooked as a climate solution. We can’t phase out food in the same way we can fossil fuels, but we can transform food systems so that they have net-zero emissions. With systemic transformation, the food system can become a major part of the solution to the climate crisis.


For two weeks at the end of 2023, tens of thousands gathered in the United Arab Emirates for COP28, the annual meeting of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

It was only two years ago, on stage at a High Level Champions for Climate event in Glasgow at COP26, that WWF made an explicit call for an impact-driven Food Day to be held at future COPs. Thanks to the collective energy, ambition and advocacy of the food community, food systems transformation was a core topic at COP28 with a dedicated thematic food day and summit-wide pledges and announcements. For the first time ever, food systems have been included in a major UNFCCC agreement. The Global Stocktake calls on countries to attain sustainable, climate-resilient food and agriculture production as a means of Adaptation. This was supported by more detailed actions for food systems in the Global Adaptation Agreement. More than 150 Heads of State signed the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action, and more than 200 non-state actors committed to delivering a shared set of priorities.

There were big steps forward but there were unfortunately some key things that were not delivered. Negotiators stopped short of directly including IPCC recommendations to transform food systems to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions in the Stocktake, talks on the food-focused Sharm el-Sheikh Joint Work were unproductive and decisions have been postponed until at least June 2024, and although many financial pledges were made for food, a multi-billion dollar shortfall still exists with food receiving as little as 4% of all climate finance. For this reason, we must remain measured in our assessment of how successful COP28 was for food systems.

Before COP28, WWF outlined five specific actions required to accelerate food-based climate action.
  1. Recognise the vital role of food systems to address the climate crisis in the COP28 cover decision and outcomes of the first Global Stocktake
  2. Include food systems approaches in Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Long-term Strategies
  3. Incorporate a comprehensive food systems approach in the Sharm el-Sheikh Joint Work on Implementation of Climate Action on Agriculture and Food Security (SSJW)
  4. Enhance financial support for climate-resilient, nature-positive, and inclusive food systems
  5. Include the phasing out of fossil fuels from food systems in all global and national food-based climate action

Read our review of COP28 from a food systems perspectiveto see the extent of progress made in these key areas, and understand what we think needs to happen in the coming months to close gaps that remain, while also taking advantage of the opportunities COP28 has created.

We have also produced a thematic summary of food at COP28, outlining some of the topics which were most prominent and the key announcements that were made in those areas. We also spotlight several critical issues that were not discussed as widely, but need to be addressed in future food-climate agendas if we are to successfully minimise the impacts of climate change and create healthy, sustainable food systems.

This synthesis is based on daily food updates that WWF sent during COP28, covering many of the announcements, financial pledges, initiatives, launches and reports. All these updates are still available online.


A comprehensive toolkit to help national policymakers translate global climate and food commitments into local actions has been launched as part of the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda. The COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkitwas produced by a taskforce - which included WWF, Global Alliance for the Future of Food, Climate Focus, NDC Partnership, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations, CGIAR and the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT - convened by the UAE COP28 Presidency and will be a valuable resource for countries as they transform their food systems to both mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The COP28 Agriculture, Food and Climate Action Toolkit directly supports the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action. The opportunity for the Declaration’s signatories to translate their commitments into ambitious national-level action lies in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).


To take the continent out of poverty, Africa’s food systems need to provide sufficient affordable, nutritious food for its population, whilst generating income and employment to support Africa’s economic and social development. But the long-term functioning of food systems relies on natural capital – the natural resources and ecosystems that provide the inputs needed for food production, including fertile soils, water and a conducive climate. These resources are currently being depleted and degraded at an alarming rate, with significant impacts on biodiversity, climate change, and ultimately, on the ability of food systems to fulfill their functions.

This report from WWF includes recommendations on how to move away from an unsustainable “business as usual” trajectory towards a scenario where food systems development in Africa goes hand in hand with long-term climate resilience and overall ecological sustainability.

READ: AFRICA’S ECOLOGICAL FOOD FUTURE: Re-imagining Africa’s food security within the context of climate change and ecological sustainability

​Many approaches are needed to accelerate the food systems transformation we so desperately need, provided we are aligned on a common vision about what success should look like regarding the future of food. 

COP28 presents an opportunity to strengthen alignment among stakeholders on the core principles underlying approaches to food systems transformation—namely agroecology, regenerative agriculture, and nature-positive solutions.

WWF believes these three approaches can be complementary to each other. By expanding the framing of regenerative agriculture to include essential elements of agroecology and nature-positive frameworks, we can align behind common objectives and catalyze necessary changes to our global food system. 


Today,food systems representation in NDCs is inconsistent. The majority of updated NDCs  include at least one related measure but most of them are related to food production and few are connecting food loss and waste ore healthy and sustainable diets to climate.

To achieve 1.5oC we must apply a combination of actions across food production, consumption and loss and waste.Policymakers, practitioners, and investors still need help in identifying relevant policy options and implementation measures so WWF is developing a new interactive guidance tool.

The Food Forward NDCs tool will support NDC implementation by providing policymakers with practices and measures that enable systemic shifts in food systems to meet NDC targets.The tool covers five critical intervention areas (food governance, food environment, food production, food supply chains and food consumption) and provides detailed guidance on dozens of policy options.


The world is facing a nutrition crisis, and the way we produce and consume food is altering the equilibrium of our planet, causing environmental damage and biodiversity loss, and climate change which further compromises food security. Children are disproportionately affected, and school meals are being increasingly recognized as a key investment for governments to tackle these challenges.

Through national school meals programs, around 418 million children currently receive a meal at school every day. This provides an exceptional opportunity for the implementation planet-friendly policies which have enormous co-benefits for child health and the wider society. 

READ: School meals and food systems: Rethinking the consequences for climate, environment, biodiversity, and food sovereignty

The importance of grasslands and savannahs for people, agriculture, nature and our climate has been systematically undervalued and overlooked around the world. Every opportunity must be taken by governments to meet the UNFCCC and UNCBD targets for climate change and biodiversity loss, alongside the land degradation neutrality targets set by Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). 

To achieve this, they cannot afford to ignore grassland and savannah biomes that cover over 50% of the world’s land. Therefore, countries’ NDCs and NBSAPs must specifically include targets, actions and legislation for the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of grasslands and savannahs.


Prior to COP28, WWF called for five key actions at COP28 to signal to the rest of the world that it’s time for all stakeholders to take ambitious action on food systems.

  1. Recognise the vital role of food systems to address the climate crisis in the COP28 cover decision and outcomes of the first Global Stocktake
  2. Include food systems approaches in Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Long-term Strategies
  3. Incorporate a comprehensive food systems approach in the Sharm el-Sheikh Joint Work on Implementation of Climate Action on Agriculture and Food Security (SSJW)
  4. Enhance financial support for climate-resilient, nature-positive, and inclusive food systems
  5. Include the phasing out of fossil fuels from foof systems in all global and national food-based climate action

The most effective solutions will be integrated across the issues of nature, climate, and food security, and involve collaboration across the UN Rio Conventions on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Biological Diversity (UNCBD) and Deforestation and Drought (UNCCD). Decisive actions at COP28 could send a strong signal for next year’s biodiversity and desertification negotiations (UNCBD and UNCCD), and can accelerate the urgently-needed implementation of food system transformation at the national level and with business.


As negotiations stalled in Sharm el-Sheikh, WWF rallied the food sector, rapdily forming a coalition of organisations across food, climate and nature to demand more productive and conclusive outcomes were delivered in Egypt. Members of the coalition have continue to work together over the past year and have aligned once again on the eve of COP28. 

The coalition has issued an urgent call to COP28 negotiators to integrate a food systems approach within the UNFCCC. Signed by more than 75 organisations and high-profile individuals, the open letter comes at a critical point in the drive to scale and accelerate national-level food-based climate action.


Policymakers must urgently increase the scale and ambition of food-based climate solutions included in national plans if there is to be any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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.

Countries are overlooking critical climate solutions. All stakeholders must urgently implement climate solutions across food systems, from farm-to-fork.


Food systems in African countries are already experiencing clmate impacts on growing seasons, and the frequency and intensity of dry spells and heavy rainfalls. Effective holistic measures across food systems can help build resilience while providing mitigation benefits, putting the continent on a sustainable development pathway.

Most African countries recognize the urgency of, and potential in, building adaptive food systems, as evidenced by their climate pledges, but rich countries must ramp up international climate finance and support to these countries to achieve these pledges. The Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provide a platform to bring all policy priorities together and implement food systems adaptation measures in a holistic manner.

Climate change adaptation in food systems is considered as an important part of contributions of NDCs and NAPs to furthering the Paris Agreement goals, alongside linkages to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This report focuses on the integration of adaptation measures for food systems transformation in the NDCs and NAPs in Africa to identify opportunities for enhancing actions and accelerating progress in the continent.

Read: Scaling and accelerating climate adaptation in food systems in Africa


Why the UN COP28 Climate Talks Must Serve Farmers to Achieve a “Just Transition”

The stage has been set for COP28 to be a “food COP”, but for commitments to translate to action, it must also be a “farmers’ COP”. If we are to translate global commitments into local action, all eyes must be on how finance is released to food producers so that they are incentivized to use practices that benefit climate, nature and people.


FOOD FORWARD NDCs - how WWF will help policymakers enhance national climate plans

The Emirates Declaration is the first agreement on food signed by Heads of State at a Climate COP. The commitment must now be urgently translated into national action.

WWF is developing
Food Forward NDCs a new interactive guidance tool that will support NDC implementation by providing policymakers with practices and measures that enable systemic shifts in food systems to meet NDC targets. It will also provide accessible guidance material for NDC enhancement to ramp up ambition in the updates to NDCs due by COP30 (in Brazil in 2025).


There is a major opportunity at COP28 to create a fertile environment for action on food, on the ground and in the water. But if we are to unlock the true potential of food systems, decision makers at COP28 must align climate commitments with nature protection and restoration. by

by Joao Campari, Global Food Practice Leader

Supporting women to transform food systems and deliver the SDGs

In an era characterized by pressing environmental concerns, women are emerging as powerful agents of change in the global effort to address climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable development. Central to how our food systems operate, their pivotal roles in implementing the Rio Conventions for Climate, Biodiversity and Land, alongside their contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), underscore the crucial importance of women in forging a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

by Martina Fleckenstein, Global Head of Policy, Food, WWF and Cheryl Margoluis, Executive Director, CARE-WWF Alliance

The African Opportunity: focusing on food can cement a leadership role in climate and nature action

Africa is the global frontier for agricultural expansion, but it’s also the region in which farmers are worst hit by the impacts of climate change.The continent is thought to hold two-thirds of the world’s remaining arable land and is likely to see significant investments in food production. However, the way food is produced, distributed, and consumed in Africa is often at odds with the natural capital on which humans and wildlife depend.

It’s impossible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius if we don’t transform food production, consumption, loss and waste, and African food systems will only be sustainable if we innovate to adapt to the changing climate landscape.

by Nancy Rapando, Africa’s Food Future Initiative Lead, WWF, and Alissa Wachter, Development Manager, Food, WWF

The urgent need for governments to commit to food loss and waste

Of all the nature and climate solutions we debate, reducing food loss and waste is possibly the least contentious. There are so many benefits yet there is not wide scale global adoption of food waste reduction as part of climate commitments. To date, as few as 36 governments have food loss and waste reduction as part of their national climate goals. Why so few?

by Pete Pearson, Global Food Loss and Waste Initiative Lead



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