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Why is farming & food absent from COP26 discussions?

After being rescheduled due to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, COP26 is now right around the corner. This Sunday, October 31st, the United Nations Climate Change Conference will begin in Glasgow in an attempt to discuss how we will work to keep global temperature rises below 2C. 

It seems strange that food is not one of the main items on the agenda, considering that discussion about the fragility of food systems is arguably more topical than ever, especially with Covid-19. The results of a recent survey confirm that more than 70% of UK consumers want the future of agriculture to be discussed at the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow. Despite the event being pushed back a year, food discussions have not been pushed up the agenda.

According to a report from the World Benchmarking Alliance, only 7% of the world’s most influential food and agriculture companies have targets and reporting aligned with a 1.5˚C trajectory, while over half of businesses in the benchmark have no climate target at all.

It is unlikely that we will achieve our climate emission targets without a radical upheaval of our food networks. The way we grow, distribute, trade, and consume food is neither sustainable, nor is it particularly effective: poverty levels are increasing even in the richest of countries.

The neglect of farming and food discussion at COP26 follows an underwhelming UN Food Summit, which took place in September 2021. 600 groups and individuals signed a declaration to “reject the ongoing corporate colonization of food systems and food governance […] The struggle for sustainable, just, and healthy food systems cannot be unhooked from the realities of the peoples whose rights, knowledge, and livelihoods have gone unrecognized and disrespected.”

Further criticisms identified the summit as being all talk, with no action, and that a lack of urgency from our world leaders means that the necessary systematic changes needed to our food networks are unlikely to be realized. 

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