Blog Reflections on COP28: Bringing food systems to the center of climate action

Reflections on COP28 - food systems transformation to the center of climate change action  - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) brought together countries and stakeholders from across the world to assess progress on emissions reduction and explore new opportunities for climate change adaptation; the event was held in Dubai’s Expo City from November 30- December 12th, 2023.  

From the dedicated CGIAR pavilion and beyond, participants from the Alliance immersed themselves in the events, drawing delegates’ attention to the importance of food systems transformation in climate change mitigation and adaptation, based on the Alliance’s latest research. Gathering insights from the Alliance’s team on site, it became clear that finally, food systems took center stage in the negotiations. The increasing recognition of the importance of integrating agricultural policy with climate action was illustrated by the ‘UAE Declaration on Sustainable Food Systems’, signed by 150 countries that attended the conference. In the declaration, negotiators of the climate change commitments recognized that “any path to fully achieving the long-term goals of the Paris Agreement must include agriculture and food systems. We affirm that agriculture and food systems must urgently adapt and transform in order to respond to the imperatives of climate change.”  

This is a significant milestone in the progress of global climate action, because it has taken many years for the negotiations to recognize that how we manage our food systems is critical to reducing emissions, and that farmers – on whose work we all rely – require significant support to adapt to a changing climate.  

Reflections on COP28: Bringing food systems transformation to the center of climate change action  - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

COP28 event pavilions. Credit: Carlotta Ferrero

Contributions of the Alliance and CGIAR 

Representatives from the Alliance participated in more than 70 events during the two-week conference. Ranging from high-level panel discussions to bilateral meetings and side-events, our scientists and leaders provided valuable insights, emphasizing the importance of food production in these global negotiations, facilitating knowledge exchange to support the development of concrete actions, enhancing stakeholders’ understanding of the challenges and opportunities in the ever-evolving landscape of sustainable food systems. 

According to Ana Maria Loboguerrero – Climate Action Research Director at the Alliance, and Leader of CGIAR’s ClimBeR Initiative:

“COP28 is a great opportunity to get to know others' initiatives, demonstrate our own efforts, and explore ways to complement each other in addressing the big challenges that climate change poses to smallholder farmers’ livelihoods.” 

Reflections on COP28: Bringing food systems transformation to the center of climate change action  - Juan Lucas - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

Alliance DG Juan Lucas Restrepo sharing the Alliance's mission to transform food systems for climate change action. Credit: Carlotta Ferrero 

Juan Lucas Restrepo – Director General of the Alliance and Global Director for Partnerships & Advocacy at CGIAR – explained:

"Through our bottom-up approach, we guarantee a comprehensive understanding of farmers' needs, delivering innovative solutions and informing policy decisions at both national and global levels, creating an enabling environment for food systems transformation.” 

As a global leader in agricultural research for development, the CGIAR network had representatives from multiple centers, coordinating a dynamic event pavilion with FAO, IFAD, and the Rockefeller Foundation, hosting a total of 80 events, with CGIAR leading or actively participating in over 30% of them.

To conclude the successes of COP28, CGIAR launched its investment case, securing $850 million USD from donors – an important contribution to carrying out the CGIAR Research and Innovation strategy over 2025-2027. Given the spotlight on food systems at COP28, CGIAR’s Executive Managing Director, Dr. Ismahane Elouafi concluded: “interest in CGIAR science has never been higher”. 

The Team

Juan Lucas Restrepo

Director General of the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, Trustee for Bioversity International UK/USA
Header Image: Flags at the entrance to Dubai's Expo City. Credit: Carlotta Ferrero