COP28 took place this month at Expo City in Dubai. It was a momentous summit, both in size (over 80,000 attendees) and impact. It also attracted backlash, considering the UAE is among the world's top 10 oil-producing nations.  

Thankfully, food systems were given the attention they deserve, with a dedicated thematic day, as well as 100s of sessions, side events, publications, announcements, and financial pledges (estimated in the tens of billions). There’s been no shortage of COP28 coverage this month, which is unsurprising considering the high-stakes negotiations. We’ve highlighted the need-to-know food systems updates below, including declarations, reports, and major themes.  

Major Food & Agriculture Themes

  • Food waste must end: Reducing food loss and waste has never been controversial. However, at COP28 it received a greater sense of urgency. Nico Janssen of the IKEA Foundation didn’t mince words: ‘What other industry allows a 30% inefficiency? We have to look ourselves in the mirror and be ashamed that we allow this to happen.’  
  • Linking sustainability & nutrition: more and more, nutrition and health are being linked to discussions on climate change. The Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN) was announced at COP27, acknowledging the relationship between climate change and malnutrition, as well as possibilities for joint solutions.  At COP28, the topic was given more attention, with multiple sessions examining the intersection of nutrition and environmental sustainability and spotlighting the I-CAN working group, a baseline assessment on climate and nutrition linkages, and other consortiums 
  • Everything regenerative: In 2019, we attended a conference in Berlin that discussed whether regenerative practices had the potential to be more than a niche offering. Since then, ‘regenerative’ has become the hot topic in food systems, attracting attention throughout the value chain. However, regenerative practices are still undefined, which will need further attention to drive meaningful impact in the agri-food sector. 
  • Investors & funding: Many people we spoke with at COP28 were surprised by how much attention was given to investors and financing. This is another global shift in the last five years, with stakeholders targeting institutional investors and major global donors to drive impact. 

Food Systems Reports

  • FAO RoadMap: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched its report ‘Achieving SDG2 without breaching the 1.5C threshold: A Global Roadmap’.  The report highlights 10 domains for action, as well as milestones and goals across domains. It envisions food systems as a solution to global challenges, acting as a carbon sink and supporting healthy diets for all people by 2050.

Food & Health Declarations    

  • Food and agriculture: 159 countries signed the declaration on sustainable agriculture, resilient food systems, and climate action. Additionally, five countries formed the ‘Alliance of Champions’ for global food systems transformation.  
  • Climate and health:  123 countries have signed the declaration aimed at placing health at the heart of climate action and accelerating the development of climate-resilient, sustainable and equitable health systems. 
  • Global stocktake: The Global Stocktake was a major outcome of COP28, assessing progress from the Paris Agreement. While agriculture and food systems made it into the final version, stakeholders were largely disappointed by the extent of its inclusion, showing the need for continued engagement towards COP29.  


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