Questions and Answers
What is the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration all about?
In November 2021, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties, COP26, in Glasgow faced the monumental task of bridging the gap between countries’ current climate commitments and the significant transformation needed to tackle the climate and nature emergencies. The momentum was growing to link food, nature, and climate at a number of key events that year including the first UN Food Systems Summit, making COP26 a unique opportunity to bring food systems reform to the forefront of the climate debate.
At COP26, the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration united 100 of the most forward-thinking sub-national and local authorities with a pledge to accelerate the development of integrated food policies and a call on national governments to act.
Why do we need a food systems approach to climate change?
With food systems currently accounting for ⅓ of global GHG emissions it is becoming clear that we cannot meet Paris Agreement without addressing food systems. Yet food touches on many different policy areas and this often leads to policy contradictions and friction. Unless all food systems’ impacts are considered together, climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies associated with food production and consumption are likely to be inefficient.
A food systems approach considers the range of actors and underlying socio-cultural, economic, biophysical, and institutional factors that shape our food systems and makes it easier to develop coherent policies, address tensions, and deliver the food systems transformation needed to tackle urgent environmental and nutritional challenges.
Why integrated food policies?
Integrated food policies reflect a food systems approach where actions are aligned horizontally across policy areas, and vertically between different levels of governance. In most countries, responsibility for food systems is split horizontally across several ministries, with agriculture, trade and industry, health, labour, and environment departments typically setting agendas based on different priorities and conflicting objectives. There are also important inconsistencies vertically between governance levels. Limited international and national government recognition, mandate, and support for city and regional food system policies and partnerships fails to incentivize the leading sustainable food systems innovation that occur at the local level.
Integrated food policies can correct these oversights through multi-actor and multi-level governance mechanisms and by creating mechanisms for the cross-sectoral work, inclusive priority setting that ensures a just transition in food, and multi-level exchange of best practice and evaluation tools across governance levels, which are generally lacking.
Why focus on local and sub-national actors?
Cities, regions, and sub-national states are leading the way in pioneering integrated food policies and strategies to drive positive food system change at a local and regional level, where the majority of sustainable food system innovation is occurring. At the same time, limited international and national government recognition, mandate and support for sub-national food system policies and partnerships hamper or fails to incentivize effective scaling and extension of this vital action. This declaration by sub-national actors is designed to amplify their voices in global conversations on food and climate, nature and health, where to date they have had a limited input.
What role do cities play?
The world's urban population continues to grow. Today, 55% of the world's population lives in cities and it is estimated that 68% will be living in cities by 2050. Sustainable development increasingly depends on the careful management of urban food systems. The Declaration builds on previous work by the World Urban Forum Medellin, the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, the C40, and others to bring urban food systems transformation to the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties as an integrated solution to the climate emergency with co-benefits for biodiversity, ecosystem regeneration, circularity, access to sustainable and healthy diets for all, and the creation of resilient livelihoods for farm and food workers.
What role do states, regions, and provinces play?
Future social, climate, and economic prosperity hinges upon the existence of diversified and climate-ready regional food systems. Regional governments are uniquely positioned to liaise among and align local, national, and supra-national food and climate policymaking, prioritizing the most relevant issues of residents and elevating proposals for action that respond to regional needs and opportunities. Furthermore, regional governments can facilitate constructive dialogue between urban, rural, and maritime communities to ensure that producers can flourish, particularly from the most vulnerable and marginalized communities, that their wellbeing is linked to the wellbeing of cities and regions, and that natural resources are preserved and restored.
What role do tribal governments play?
For too long, food and climate policymaking have been viewed through a reductionist lens, resulting in insufficient incremental changes. Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, territorially rooted and holistically driven, can uniquely meet the complex challenges we face. Indigenous communities, as stewards and guardians of biodiversity and natural resources, are key agents of change in local, national, and international food and climate policymaking. The Glasgow Declaration emphasizes that inclusive, multi-level governance on food and climate includes regular, meaningful, and robust consultations with tribal and local governments by federal governments, who, along with powerful industries, have thus far dominated climate change discourse at the international level.
Who signed the Declaration and why?
See all signatories here. Governments who signed the Glasgow Declaration renewed their commitments to take a food system approach to the climate emergency and continue to work on adopting and implementing sustainable integrated food policies. Signatories also added their voice behind the call to action targeted at national and international policy-makers at the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties.
How was the Glasgow Declaration text drafted?
In March 2020, IPES-Food and Nourish Scotland convened a broad coalition of the core partners, to collectively draft a Declaration and kick-off a process aimed at moving local actors and integrated food policies to center stage at COP26. The Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration was drafted in 5 rounds between March and November 2020 in consultation with partners and subnational governments. The final text was launched on December 14, 2020.
What happened at COP26?
At COP26 food systems were notably absent from the formal agenda, and subject only to weak pledges from national governments despite growing calls for action in this area. But the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration brought together 100 pioneering local and sub-national governments leading the fight against the climate, ecological, and health emergencies through integrated food policies. Through a number of events at COP26, our partners and signatories highlighted what local authorities are already doing to slash emissions and build just and sustainable food systems – and why food has to be a bigger part of the answer to climate change.