Summary of the Online Launch of “Food Systems and Planetary Goals: Two Inseparable Policy Agendas

Palm Oil, Deforestation And Rainforest

On the 19th of July 2023, the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition organised an online launch event for our latest policy brief, ’Food Systems and Planetary Goals: Two Inseparable Policy Agendas.’  

Professor Patrick Webb (Technical Adviser for the Global Panel) provided a short overview of the policy brief followed by comments from Professor Tim Benton (Chatham House). Prof Benton began by sharing new and concerning data which showed that in 2023, the climate is entering uncharted territory. He went on to make three points: first on the urgent need to act on food system transformation to help address climate change and other planetary boundaries; second, that neither food system transformation or meeting planetary goals can be delivered in isolation, both are mutually dependent; and third, on the need for political change to deliver the necessary action on food system transformation and meeting planetary goals.  

Global Panel Chair Sir John Beddington invited comments from the three members of the panel for the event. Tom Arnold (Global Panel member) described the policy brief as important and timely in that it made explicit the strong link between the dual agendas of food system transformation and planetary goals.  He noted that the UN Food System Summit Stocktake, the G20, the 2023 SDG Summit, and COP 28, presented several opportunities to put this issue at the forefront of the international agenda.  Srinath Reddy (Global Panel member) emphasised the relevance of the policy brief to delivering the SDGs and the One Health agenda and stressed the need for climate SMART and resilient agri-food systems together with re-alignment of agricultural support. Amos Laar, (Professor of Public Health Nutrition, the University of Ghana) stressed the need for intergovernmental consensus,  and noted that leveraging data and science-based solutions was vital to the construction of future scenarios.   

In the Q&A session, in response to questions about the urgent need for action, the panellists observed that in general the science policy interface was not working well. There was an abundance of scientific evidence, but concrete policy actions were required. Comparisons were made to the emergence of renewables and electric vehicles in the energy sector where citizen engagement helped to create the space for change. However, the political tone was changing. For example, the UN Food System Summit through the national dialogue process helped to give people a voice on food systems prompting some government actions.  The UAE COP 28 Presidency was also encouraging food systems to be given space at COP28. In addition, the extreme weather in many parts of the world were raising awareness about the dangers of delaying action to mitigate climate change. . These foundations needed to be built upon with a wide range of incentives to  encourage stakeholder and civil society engagement.  

There were also questions about biodiversity and healthy diets. The panellists recognised that the two were closely linked: a healthy diet was a more diverse diet. Reducing meat consumption would cut the amount of grain required for animal feed and free up land to cultivate more diverse crops. It was important to produce nutrient-rich food in ways which moved beyond industrialised agriculture based on crop monoculture.  There was a need to build on the success of COP 15 and look at food system transformation which would offer benefits on multiple agendas including improving biodiversity  

The event concluded with closing remarks from Sir John Beddington, Chair of the Global Panel.