World leaders have signed the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action at COP28 in Dubai.

The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Action has been signed by 134, representing 5.7 billion people, 500 million farmers and 75% of all emissions from global food systems.

It calls for the adaptation and transformation of agriculture and food systems in order to respond to the imperatives of climate change, recognising the extent to which “unprecedented adverse climate impacts are increasingly threatening the resilience of agriculture and food systems”.

World leaders agreed to work together on a number of food and agriculture objectives, including:

  • Strengthening the integrated management of water in agriculture and food systems at all levels to ensure sustainability and reduce adverse effects on communities
  • Scaling-up financial and technical support for farmers, fisherfolk and other food producers who are engaged in resilience activities and responses to climate change
  • Maximising the climate and environmental benefits associated with agriculture and food systems by conserving, protecting and restoring land and natural ecosystems, enhancing soil health, and biodiversity, and changing to more sustainable production approaches
  • Promoting food security and nutrition by increasing efforts to support vulnerable people via social systems, school feeding and public procurement programs
  • Supporting workers in agriculture and food systems whose livelihoods are threatened by climate change.

To achieve these objectives, signatories said they would:

  • Revisit or orient policies and public support related to agriculture and food systems to promote activities which increase incomes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and bolster resilience, productivity, livelihoods, nutrition, water efficiency and human, animal and ecosystem health while reducing food loss and waste
  • Scale up and enhance access to finance from the public, philanthropic and private sectors to transform agriculture and food systems
  • Strengthen the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organisation at its core
  • Increase science and evidence-based innovations to increase sustainable productivity
  • Pursue engagement to integrate agriculture and food systems into National Adaptation Plans, Nationally Determined Contributions, Long-term Strategies, National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans and other strategies before COP30.

Food bodies respond to the Declaration

João Campari, Global Food Practice Leader, WWF said: “WWF welcomes the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action and is greatly encouraged that it has been endorsed by 134 Heads of State.

“The commitment of world leaders to integrate food systems approaches (combining food production, consumption and loss and waste) in climate action is exactly what we need at a time when a 1.5°C future looks harder and harder to achieve. This commitment keeps the hope alive, but it must urgently lead to action in landscapes, seascapes and riverscapes that are critical to sustain life on Earth – particularly those being degraded by unsustainable food systems.”

Dr. Gunhild Stordalen, Founder and Executive Chair, EAT: “The science is clear: Transforming food systems is an absolute prerequisite for staying within the 1.5°C threshold. The inception of #ACF today marks a significant and encouraging step in this journey. Now, the signatories must translate their intentions into plans for implementation.”

Dr Lee Recht, Global Cellular Agriculture Alliance, co-host of the Food Systems Pavilion, commented: “The Emirates Declaration is a step in the right direction. We need to make sure protein diversification is part of the core strategy as well. Innovative tools, like cellular agriculture, can play a vital role in complementing sustainable animal agriculture, contributing to a more diverse protein sector and the establishment of more secure and resilient food systems.”

Edward Davey, Head of UK Office, World Resources Institute Europe; Partnerships Director, Food and Land Use Coalition, co-host of the Food Systems Pavilion, said: “The launch today of the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action is a wonderful development and the moment when food truly comes of age in the climate process.

“The declaration sends a powerful signal to the nations of the world that we can only keep the 1.5°C goal in sight if we act fast to shift the global food system in the direction of greater sustainability and resilience. 

“All countries must leave COP with a commitment to incorporate food and food systems fully into their next round of NDCs, and return to COP29 and COP30 in Brazil with real progress to demonstrate to this end.”