Op-ed: We need to talk about food at COP27

 

By Rahmina Paullete

 

The UN climate summit (COP27) is coming to Africa next month and it’s really exciting to know that such a prestigious event is on African soil.

I am Kenyan. I grew up in the city of Kisumu. I am 16 years old and a climate activist. The damaging effects of climate change — the droughts, the floods, the food scarcity — have been particularly harsh on the African continent. Also in Kenya. That is why this COP is so important to me personally.

Thousands of people will descend on Sharm El Sheikh by the Red Sea in Egypt to begin negotiations about moving forward on climate change. They will talk about energy and transport, and new technologies. All of this is very important. 

But there is one topic in particular that I’d like climate leaders to address at COP27: food. 

Food and climate change

It is not only the effects that climate change is having on our food production, awful as they are: our farmers are losing their harvests because of droughts, floods and temperature rises, and our people are struggling to have access to good, nutritious food to sustain themselves. 

It is also the ways in which current food production and consumption are contributing to our planetary crisis and its terrible consequences. 

The global food system is responsible for a third of greenhouse gas emissions. It causes around 80% of global deforestation, uses enormous amounts of resources and is responsible for a lot of biodiversity loss. 

What is more, even though we produce tons of food every year, people are still starving because of waste and unequal distribution. 

The intensification of agricultural practices, the exploitation of our soils for profit and cheap exports, and the excessive consumption of resource-intensive animal products in many parts of the world is what stands behind these threatening effects. Research shows clearly that animal-based foods emit twice as much greenhouse gases as plant-based foods and that livestock and the production of animal feeds are among the leading drivers of global deforestation. 

Holistic solutions needed

I urge leaders at COP27 to address these issues and set concrete goals to radically transform the way we produce and consume food. What we need are more sustainable and resilient practices, including a reduction of inorganic manure use, less food loss and waste, and a shift towards more climate-compatible, healthy, predominantly plant-based diets.

We also need to go back to the roots and re-discover traditional farming practices and indigenous, locally grown crops that are nutritious and often much less vulnerable to climate change. 

In order to get this urgent transformation off the ground, we need a holistic approach that connects food systems with the other great issues of climate action. Notably, ambitious Loss and Damage financing from the Global North will be crucial to facilitate a just food systems transition in the Global South. Moreover, it is time that indigenous youth voices were meaningfully involved in global climate negotiations so that issues like food systems change are no longer being ignored. 

The delegates are going to find it hard to avoid the subject of food anyway thanks to the fact that the UN has approved four Pavilions onsite that specifically tackle food and agriculture. Personally, I’m involved with the Food4Climate Pavilion which will host plenty of events and discussions, from dietary shifts and sustainable agricultural practices to the role of youth.

For the sake of future generations like my own and the people already suffering from climate change, I hope that climate leaders will finally realise that we cannot leave food out of the equation. 

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Rahmina Paullete grew up in Kisumu in Kenya and made her mark on the environmental scene when she set up a project to restore Lake Victoria’s ecosystem. She is a lead campaigner for #LetLakeVictoriaBreatheAgain and the Founder of Kisumu Environmental Champions, which is a youth organisation that focuses on climate change education, environmental conservation and wildlife conservation. She is also a climate activist for Fridays for Future International and part of the social media team for Sustory. In addition, she is an active member and the focal point of the youth advocacy group at Food@COP, official partner of the Food4Climate Pavilion, and member of the Diet Change not Climate Change Youth Board.

For media inquiries, email Peter Rixon at [email protected]

 

About the Food4Climate Pavilion 

Food4Climate Pavilion will aim to present plant-rich diets as a key mitigation and adaptation solution to the climate crisis at this year’s COP27 conference in Egypt in November. 

The Pavilion’s diverse stakeholders highlight the rich plurality of actors and factors shaping our food systems. With a strong focus on Just Transition, the programme will explore multiple perspectives and concrete ways to create inclusive mechanisms for leveraging the potential of plant-rich diets to make our food systems more sustainable and equitable. 

Core organisers of the Food4Climate Pavilion: A Well-Fed World, Compassion in World Farming, Food Tank, FOUR PAWS, The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food), ProVeg International.

NGO partners are: 50by40, A Well-Fed World, Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation, Center for Earth Ethics, Compassion in World Farming, Jeremy Coller Foundation, FOUR PAWS, Humane Society International, MENA Youth Network, ProVeg International, World Animal Protection, Youth Loves Egypt and YOUNGO.

Think tank partners are: Brighter Green, Food Tank, The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES Food)

Food industry partners are: Enough, Impossible Foods, Oatly, Upfield,

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