PRE COP27 ANALYSIS: Taking steps towards a resilient agri-food system for people and climate

by Nikola Baumschlager

Food and agriculture (Agrifood) should be addressed with urgency at COP27. 

The good news is that food will likely play a vital role this COP27, as for the first time ever, there will be a food pavilion which puts agrifood topics on their agenda, showing how our food system can (and must) provide solutions to the climate crisis. For further information, follow this link: Food and Agriculture Pavilion – Putting agri-food systems at the heart of the agenda of COP-27 (

Food in our time has been declared one of the most significant environmental and health challenges [1]. World population projections are almost 10 billion people by 2050 [2]. To meet this demand for feed, food, fibre, and biofuel, the output by agriculture must grow by more than a factor of two in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while in the rest of the world, it needs to increase by about one-third [3]. Agricultural land, however, already takes up 50% of Earth’s land area [4]! Yield increases have also slowed due to climate change, despite ongoing improvements in agricultural efficiency, as a further stressor to the need to rapidly increase production [3]. 

Agricultural systems are both threatened due to the climate crisis, and intensifying, contributing up to one third of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGE). Fossil fuels burned for intensive agriculture contribute to these net GHGE, as well as ruminant animals and soil emissions from disturbed land [5]. Related negative impacts of agriculture are soil and water degradation, biodiversity loss, and deforestation. Securing a stable present and future food system while mitigating GHGE are apparently intertwined and need to be addressed with urgency.

Synergies among food security, climate mitigation, and agricultural practices are possible. Promising interventions, however, require accurate management to distribute benefits and costs effectively [5]. Many different skills are needed to improve the management of our planet’s landscapes, balance human needs, and sustain people-and-planet’s health [8]. Agriculture is a dominant force behind many environmental threats, with a complexity that requires international cooperation for reform [6]. 

The Conference of the Parties is the perfect stage and ecosystem where these skills can come together to work towards a global solution. The agricultural sector, besides contributing to climate change, also offers a host of potential climate benefits. The good news is cooperation towards a global solution already started at COP23 in Fiji. There, the parties signed the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), a landmark agreement towards tackling climate change through the potential of agriculture [7].

The collective agricultural climate action, KJWA, fosters discussions on agriculture in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The undersigned countries agreed to work towards an agricultural development where food security is increased, and emissions are reduced. The goal is to establish a more sustainable, food secure, and resilient world [7]. 

The joint work focuses on six topics: nutrient use, soils, livestock, water, methods for assessing adaptation, and the socio-economic and food security dimensions across the agricultural sector. The goal was to meet twice per year and present a plan at COP26, mapping the way forward with the goal of adopting a specific decision at COP27 [7].

The main recognitions at COP26 were:

  1. That nutrient and soil management is at the core of a sustainable food production system for global food security
  2. While livestock management is one of the biggest contributors to climate change, improving sustainable production and animal health can also contribute to both reducing GHGE and enhancing sinks on pastures and grazing lands
  3. Applying a systemic and holistic approach to design a sustainable and climate-resilient agricultural system is fundamental for safeguarding food security and ending hunger

Even though the KJWA is a landmark agreement, it is relatively unknown. Food and agriculture, however, are systems on which both rural and urban consumers have an impact. The KJWA is an exchange of knowledge and all stakeholders need to be involved: farmers, decision-makers, food producers, women, youth, indigenous people, etc. 

Conflicts persisted at COP26, as relatively food-insecure countries opposed adaptations put forth by rich nations, perceived to be in conflict with their food security goals. Whether to discuss reducing livestock numbers was particularly controversial. At COP27, parties should work on concrete solutions and provide a platform that brings people together for the future, supporting food-insecure countries, and especially, direct the agricultural sector towards sound solutions for mitigating and adapting to the climate crisis.                       


[1] Willett, W. et. al. (2019). Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The Lancet, 393(10170), 447-492.
[2] UN. (2021a). World population projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. [Online] Available from, [Accessed 11.10.2022].[3] FAO. (2017). The future of food and agriculture – Trends and challenges. Rome. [Online] Available from [Accessed 11.10.2022].
[4] OWID. (2019), Land Use, [Online] Available from [Accessed 11, 10, 2022]
[5] Vermeulen, S. J., Campbell, B. B., & Ingram, J. S. I. (2012). Climate Change and Food Systems. The Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 37, 195-222.
[6] Berners-Lee, M., Kennelly, C., Watson, R., & Hewitt, C.N. (2019). There is no planet B: A Handbook for the Make or Break Years, Cambridge University Press.
[7] FAO. (2021). Is Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture shaping up to be a game changer at COP27? [Online] Available from [Accessed 11.10.2022].
[8] Foley, J.A., Defries, R., Asner, G.P., Barford, C., Bonan, G., Carpenter, S.R., Chapin, F.S., Coe, M.T., Daily, G.C., Gibbs, H.K., Helkowski, J.H., Holloway, T., Howard, E.A., Kucharik, C.J., Monfreda, C., Patz, J.A., Prentice, I.C., Ramankutty, N. & Snyer, P.K. (2005). Global consequences of land use. Science, 309, 570–574.

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