Food for thought AND action is needed to deliver a good COP

17 November 2022

This is an extract from an article which first appeared in The Grocer.

Richard Swannell at COP27
Richard Swannell at COP27


There was a lot of discussion on the fringes in Glasgow at COP26 about the need to tackle consumption, with food very much at the heart of the debate, but it got much less traction in the main decision-making arena as countries focused on other issues like energy generation. Whilst this is understandable, we believe it was a missed opportunity to include food system transformation in the battle against climate change.

This gap still exists. Ahead of COP27, we highlighted that tackling food loss and waste, one of the key levers in the shift to a sustainable food system, remains an underappreciated climate action strategy and one that could be codified in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) - the action plans which countries use to indicate their priorities for tackling climate change.

Our global food system is creaking under the pressure from the current economic turbulence and the damaging effects of climate change.

There is room for optimism, though. For the first time ever there is a Food Systems pavilion at COP 27 discussing approaches that can deliver sustainable change. It is where our delegation will be supporting a number of events. This a welcome step forward, but we do also need to see that momentum translate into concrete commitments for change from all actors.

This is because our global food system is creaking under the pressure from the current economic turbulence and the damaging effects of climate change. At the same time the way we produce, consume (and waste) food is driving the climate emergency, and is a significant factor in biodiversity loss. The system is ripe for transformation, to one that is low carbon and low impact from farm to fork.

Our Food System Second biggest driver of climate change


In the UK, we reflected this need for whole system change in the newest phase of the Courtauld journey by realigning all the targets to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and in order to respond more effectively to the climate emergency. This means a greater emphasis on the interconnection between tackling GHG emissions, reducing waste, and protecting water resources, and their combined value in building a new sustainable food system.

Whilst I remain hopeful, there is no doubt there are significant challenges ahead. What is reassuring is that these issues are being discussed on the global stage. As a result of the discussions at COP27, I am hopeful that more countries and businesses will prioritise work on food waste reduction and food system change going forward. The evidence is clear; this is key to tackling climate change. Now is the time to act together to build a food system which nourishes, sustains, and protects both people and planet.