Food and agriculture systems are on the agenda at the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP27) this year for the first time. In addition to more than 300 live events, new reports from WWF, IPES-Food, and the Global Alliance for the Future of Food are helping to prioritize food systems at these critical conversations in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

“Only with a food systems approach can we halt and reverse nature loss,” WWF writes in its manifesto for the COP27, Great Food Puzzle: Translating Global Goals into National Level Action.

If all other sectors managed to rapidly decarbonize, business-as-usual food-based emissions would still use nearly the whole carbon budget for a 2°C future, according to WWF. But food systems vary between countries, so global targets need to be translated into local contexts and account for social, political, and environmental dimensions.

The Great Food Puzzle presents an in-depth analysis of four countries, outlining 20 transformation levers that other countries can implement to meet critical climate goals. These actions include supporting smallholder farmers, promoting traditional foods, developing nature-positive supply chains, increasing diversity, and more.

Shifting diets has the greatest potential to help meet emissions reduction goals, according to WWF, “but only a combination of actions can keep global warming within 1.5°C.”

Among these actions, IPES-Food argues that leaders must reject food systems solutions that lack definitions, exploit ambiguity, and mask agribusiness as usual.

“Getting food systems on the global agenda isn’t enough: we must ensure inclusive global processes based on a shared understanding of food system transformation and a comprehensive (socially and environmentally) sustainable food system vision,” authors write in a report from IPES-Food, Smoke & Mirrors: Examining competing framings of food system sustainability.

The report analyzes three concepts that are growing in popularity in global conversations surrounding food and agriculture: agroecology, nature-based solutions, and regenerative agriculture. While often grouped together, these three concepts “can imply very different things,” according to IPES-Food. For example, the term “nature-based solutions” is gaining traction, but authors write that “agroecology” offers a more comprehensive pathway toward food system sustainability.

Read the full article about global food systems by Emily Payne at Food Tank.