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It’s the final few days of COP28, but arguably one of the most important discussions is yet to come – Food and Agriculture.
The results of these topics will have far-reaching consequences on our wild plants and fungi. Our Grassland Advocacy Officer, Jo Riggall, explains why.
As I write this, I’m eating a piece of toast. As you read this, you may be eating something too. All 8.1 billion of us need food. Just like other types of consumption, such as oil and gas, our food consumption requires and releases energy. In fact, the food system is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.
It therefore makes sense that food is a central focus of the climate Conference of the Parties (CoP28) taking place at the moment in Dubai.
The CoP28 theme today is ‘Food and Agriculture’, which is a good opportunity to put down my toast and highlight some of the food and agriculture discussions at CoP28, and what they mean for wild plants and fungi.
We rely on wild plants and fungi for so much, however they are the overlooked centrepieces at the heart of all ecosystems.
Take grasslands: the livelihoods of around 800 million people depend on them and they cover more than 50% of the world’s land.
Imagine nomadic reindeer herders navigating the Steppes in Mongolia, or small-scale pastoralists grazing their livestock on Kenyan savannahs. Humans are part of a virtuous Venn diagram, with grasslands at the centre:
It’s important to differentiate this approach to grassland management from the more intensive farming, that shatters the mutualistic relationship between people and the natural environment.
Intensive, large-scale agriculture relies on greenhouse gas-emitting synthetic fertilisers and ploughing, with tightly packed livestock damaging the sensitive flora and degrading the soil.
That’s why we’re looking to world leaders at CoP28 to recognise the value of healthy grasslands and savannahs as part of a sustainable food system, that helps boost biodiversity and tackle climate change.
We need joined-up action across governments and their policies tackling farming, food security, public health, nature & net zero.
At CoP28, 134 countries have signed up to the United Arab Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, committing to integrate food into their climate plans by 2025.
This could be an important step towards real action to bring down emissions from global agriculture, in tandem with supporting farmers, pastoralists, and smallholders who farm in a low-carbon way.
However, alongside real action there’s also real risk – of greenwashing. We should be sceptical of subsidies that still go towards funding intensive agriculture, or untested technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We’ll be watching how governments put this Declaration into practice.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether governments will make tangible commitments to actually shift food production away from intensive agricultural practices.
Will governments stop harmful agricultural subsidies and instead pay and support less intensive farming, that helps restore swathes of degraded grassland?
Will they ignore the huge farming and fertiliser lobby to help farmers break free from costly input cycles?
Will the rights of indigenous people and local communities to their land and traditional pastoralism be respected?
We want the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of healthy grasslands to be meaningfully incorporated into countries’ climate and biodiversity strategies.
As I finish my meal, these are the questions I will ponder ahead of CoP28’s final few days. The solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises are by no means bitesize, but I have hope, if we’re all sat together at the same table.
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, shares her experience at COP28 understanding the role of nature and Indigenous Peoples in the climate conversation.
This WWF & Plantlife document makes the case for the world to recognise the vital role that grasslands and savannahs can play in addressing the climate and biodiversity crises.
We are teaming up with WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature) at COP28 to press for better recognition of grasslands and savannahs, alongside other habitats.
Our Global Advocacy Coordinator, Claire Rumsey, will be at COP28 to speak up for the vital role of wild plants and fungi in the fight against climate change
At Plantlife, we are focused in gaining recognition for grassland ecosystems around the world as nature-based solutions to the climate crisis. Storing between 25-35% of the world’s terrestrial carbon, they are an underutilised resource.
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