Blog A4IP at COP28: Driving Sustainability in Agri-Food Systems

The 28th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) convened in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023.

As a pivotal annual assembly, COPs serve as the primary global multilateral decision-making platform on climate change. This year, nearly every country in the world has agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels” by 2050, the main driver of climate change.  It is the first time such an agreement has been reached in 28 years of international climate negotiations. Moreover, COP28 witnessed increased support for food systems transformation, with more than US$7.1 billion mobilized for climate-positive action in the food systems sector. On December 10, COP28’s Food, Agriculture and Water Day, 152 parties endorsed the COP28 UAE Declaration on Agriculture, Food Systems and Climate Action, recognizing that any path aimed at achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement must include sustainable agriculture and food systems transformations through research and innovation. 

In this framework and committed to co-design and accelerate agri-food and climate tech innovations, the CGIAR Accelerate for Impact Platform centered its presence at COP28 on fostering science-driven entrepreneurship, de-risking technological development, and exploring the private sector's role in implementing transformative solutions. 

As part of the CGIAR delegation, A4IP actively contributed takeaways across several multi-stakeholder sessions during COP28:

Reflecting on the conference, A4IP reports from its participation with key highlights around innovation, partnerships, role of youth in driving tangible change in agri-food systems:

1. Collaboration and declarations transform policies for net-zero emissions
In the “Progress through Partnerships – Powering the Transformation of Global Food Systems” session, organized by Tetra Pak on December 2 in the Parliamentary Pavilion, the discussion highlighted the urgent need for revolutionary changes in food systems to achieve net-zero emissions. Panellists included Barry Gardiner, Member of Parliament, United Kingdom; Nqabisa Gantsho, Member of Parliament, Nation Assembly, Republic of South Africa; Charles Brand, Executive Vice President, Processing Solutions & Equipment, Tetrapak; Gianpiero Menza, Senior Manager, Partnerships and Innovative Finance at the Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT; and Malini Meha, Chief Executive at GLOBE International Secretariat. As highlighted by Gianpiero Menza, the imperative is to translate declarations into policies, promote sustainable food systems, and address the implementation challenges that hinder progress. This underscores the crucial role of coordinated efforts in reshaping global food systems.

2. Digital technologies and AI promote climate resilience in agriculture
In the “Digital Technology and Climate Action in Agriculture” session, organized by IDB Lab on December 3 in the IDB Group Pavilion, Aly Abousabaa, CGIAR/ICARDA Director General, stressed the transformative potential of digital technologies, particularly AI, in promoting climate resilience in agriculture. Featuring panelists from the Moonshot for Development (M4D) initiative - Jyotsna Jo Puri, Associate Vice-President of Strategy and Knowledge, IFAD; Virginia Villar Arribas, Deputy Director – Private Partnerships, WFP; the session, moderated by Yuri Suarez Soares from IDB Lab, emphasized the importance of leveraging technologies like Web3 and AI to reshape global food systems, highlighting the role of innovation and advanced technologies in mitigating environmental challenges and driving sustainable agriculture practices. An example of the M4D joint effort to solve global development challenges through breakthrough technologies is represented by the “AI for Climate Resilience Innovation Challenge”, organized by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), CGIAR Accelerate for Impact Platform,  Asian Development Bank (ADB), IDB Lab, World Food Programme Innovation Accelerator, and World Bank Technology & Innovation Lab to support, coach and found ethical, AI-driven solutions that nurture climate adaptation, resource management, and disaster readiness in rural communities.

3. Earthshots and climate tech charts the course to climate goals
In the “Expanding the Earthshot Pipeline: Engineering Bolder Global Solutions” session, organized by Deep Science Ventures on December 5 in the Bahamas Pavilion, the panellists – including Gianpiero Menza from the Alliance of Bioveristy International & CIAT , Barbara Diehl from SPRIND and Thane Campbell from Deep Science Ventures, with moderation by Irena Spazzapan from Systemic Capital (photographed above) - delved into the necessity of visionary climate tech innovators to achieve climate goals. Discussions explored strategies for creating scalable climate tech companies and accelerating projects addressing challenges such as CO2 reduction. A critical aspect discussed was the training of diverse Combinatorial Innovators for rapid progress, through the Venture Science Doctorate which was recently launched by The UK Government and Deep Science Ventures. The Office of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas is now collaborating on the Venture Science Doctorate to tackle pressing climate and food security challenges across the Caribbean.

4. Youth-led solutions are key to tackling the climate crisis
The IAAS-organized event “The Potential of Young Researchers, Scientists, and Engineers to Tackle the Climate Crisis, Focussing on Food and Agriculture”, held on December 6 in the Nepal Pavilion, brought together young activists and experts to discuss their role in addressing climate problems, particularly in the areas of food and agriculture. Panellists featured Rabi Raut, President of IAAS; William Charouhis, Forces of Nature, USA; Gianpiero Menza, Senior Manager, Partnerships & Innovative Finance, Alliance of Bioveristy International & CIAT; and Domenico Vito, GCSAYN Italy, Climate Social Forum. Salma Rian, member of IAAS Morocco, moderated the session, which highlighted youth-led solutions, encouraged collaboration in climate-resilient farming, and showcased success stories. As a panellist, Gianpiero Menza stressed that the global youth community must be supported and empowered in order to drive tangible climate action and create a resilient future.

The insights gleaned from COP28 underscore that many solutions, grounded in science and expertise, already exist to successfully transform agriculture and food systems into more climate-smart entities. However, the imperative lies in fostering cohesive collaboration among all stakeholders to harness these solutions effectively. To achieve longer-term impact, there is a critical need for improved communication between science, policymakers, and the wider innovation ecosystem. 

In the header picture, from the left: Thane Campbell from Deep Science Ventures, Barbara Diehl from SPRIND, Irena Spazzapan from Systemic Capital, and Gianpiero Menza from CGIAR A4IP. The picture was taken on December 5, 2023, at the Bahamas pavilion in the aftermath of the Expanding the Earthshot Pipeline: Engineering Bolder Global Solutions” session, organized by Deep Science Ventures.