UN Food Systems Summit: WWF warns that lack of attention to nature and climate could undermine progress towards SDGs

Posted on 24 September 2021

Summit saw largest-ever number of commitments to transforming food systems but WWF is concerned time is running out to achieve necessary impact at upcoming climate and biodiversity COPs

NEW YORK CITY, United States (22 September) -- With world leaders gathering in New York for the first-ever United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) today, WWF welcomes the ambitious commitment to transform food systems demonstrated by participants but warns that the lack of attention to nature and climate shown by the 150-plus countries in attendance could knock the world off course from meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030.

In total, 101 countries have developed detailed new national pathways for food systems transformation at the summit, while an additional 50 also made commitments, to alleviate hunger and tackle the severe impacts food systems have on nature and climate. Yet the majority of these failed to place sufficient focus on the vital role of food systems in addressing the nature and climate crises. 

WWF believes it is a matter of urgency for all UN member states to include specific actions in their national pathways to deliver nature-positive food systems with net-zero emissions, and to officially join the “coalitions of action*” which will help them deliver their commitments. 

Joao Campari, Global Food Lead at WWF International, said:
“Although the Food Systems Summit has driven more commitments to transform food systems than ever before, the lack of attention to nature and climate in the statements given by more than 150 countries threatens to undermine progress towards the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals. 

“Unless national governments meet the ambition of civil society, youths and Indigenous People, by strengthening their commitments to nature and climate and prioritising actions on food systems in Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Climate Agreement and the Global Biodiversity Framework, we will miss the opportunity the summit provided us to catalyse action across all SDGs.”

At the Food Systems Summit, at least 30 countries highlighted the importance of shifting to more sustainable diets. Although this is recognised as a significant way to reduce the carbon footprint of food systems, no country is yet to include dietary shifts as a mitigation action in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). By including dietary shifts in national pathways and NDCs, nearly all countries would increase their chances of meeting climate targets.

WWF is urging all countries to adopt nature-positive production practices to reverse the devastating impacts on biodiversity of current food production. Yet while 91 world leaders plus the EU have signed the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature**, which includes an explicit commitment to transitions to “sustainable food systems that meet people’s needs while remaining within planetary boundaries”, mentions of nature-positive production practices in national statements at the Food Systems Summit were fleeting. In fact, only 41 of the countries whose leaders have signed the pledge have so far developed a national pathway on food. 

Food systems transformation provides leaders with an opportunity to meet their pledges, while also benefiting people and climate,” said Campari. “In addition to aligning food plans with climate and nature plans, countries must include solutions and targets across food systems. Only by applying systems thinking and addressing production, consumption and loss and waste together, can countries unlock the potential of their pathways to meet food, climate and nature goals.”

The Summit has given us the foundations on which to build success,” continued Campari. “We are working closely with the coalitions on agroecology, blue and aquatic foods, soil health and healthy and sustainable diets, which can help support thriving biodiversity and reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Already we have seen strong support from countries including France, Senegal, Thailand, Switzerland, Norway and Ireland. We urge other governments and food systems actors to join the coalitions and seize the opportunity to transition to sustainable food systems as part of a nature-positive, food-secure world with net-zero emissions.”

For the annual reporting and two-year follow-ups, to which the Deputy Secretary General has committed, to be meaningful, WWF believes that the implementation of pathways must be measured against targets in addressing hunger, climate change and nature loss or the impact of national pathways will be severely diluted.

“There is no time to rest,” concluded Campari. “The first installment of the UN biodiversity conference (COP15) is in a few weeks and then the COP26 climate conference is upon us. The UNFSS has kickstarted action but the hard work starts now to ensure it translates into meaningful impact.”

 - ENDS -

Notes to Editors

Joao Campari is available for interview. Please direct queries or interview requests to news@wwfint.org

*Coalitions of action provide governments the foundations on which to expand their commitments. By leveraging the expertise of stakeholders from across geographies and food systems, including food producers, businesses small and large, youths, Indigenous Peoples and scientists, governments will be able to deliver better outcomes for people, nature and climate. Equally, coalitions provide all food systems actors with a seat at the table and facilitate inclusive decision-making. WWF sees the coalitions as essential to future success and supports a whole-of-society approach to realising the potential of solutions emerging from the Summit. 

Coalitions in which WWF is active:

  • Repurpose Public Support to Food and Agriculture

  • Land and freshwater nexus

  • Halting Deforestation & Conversion from Agricultural 

  • Commodities
  • Food Systems Transformation through Agroecology
  • The coalition for Aquatic / Blue Foods

  • Restoring grasslands, shrublands and savannahs through sustainable extensive livestock-based food systems

  • Coalition of Action 4 Soil Health (CA4SH)

  • Food Is Never Waste

  • Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems for Children & All

**The Leaders Pledge for Nature is a commitment to reverse biodiversity loss by the end of the decade which was launched at the UN General Assembly in 2020. The pledge is a direct response to the need for urgent and immediate global action to address our interdependent biodiversity, climate and health crises. It has so far been endorsed by 90 world leaders, including six G7 countries, 8 G20 countries and several of the world’s top biodiversity-rich countries such as the UK, France, Germany, Colombia and Costa Rica, representing over 37% GDP and over a quarter of the world population. It is also supported by more than 80 organisations including WWF, the World Health Organization, Conservation International, BirdLife International.


WWF is an independent conservation organization, with over 30 million followers and a global network active in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit panda.org/news for the latest news and media resources; follow us on Twitter @WWF_media


Nature-positive food systems are needed for people and planet
© WWF-US / James Morgan