Growing Returns

Takeaways from the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture

By Karly Kelso

Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, January 20, 2023 (BMEL/Photothek)

Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, January 20, 2023 (BMEL/Photothek)

Food systems transformation is increasingly getting traction globally, making the case that we can’t meet our Paris climate agreements without food at and on the table. That was certainly true at the recently held Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) in Berlin, known as the largest informal gathering of Agriculture Ministers. 

This year’s theme, “Food Systems Transformation: A Worldwide Response to Multiple Crises,” focused on conversations about how global food security may be achieved in the face of multiple crises, including Russia’s war against Ukraine. Despite the heavy topic, a sense of energy and ambition among the attendees was evident as this event marked the first GFFA held in person since 2020, when the COVID pandemic forced global lockdowns.  

The conference has historically focused on agriculture production policies, but this year was different. Conversations took a more holistic view of food systems, and our EDF team was among the voices calling for attention towards freshwater management and blue foods. Both are central to food systems but are often left out of these dialogues despite their significant contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals and global food and nutrition security. At GFFA, our team highlighted how EDF is advancing international recognition of these two critical aspects of food systems.  

Our team demonstrated the innovative tool, OpenET, that provides access to satellite data on water consumption on agricultural lands across 17 states in the American west. This tool supports climate-friendly food systems by enabling producers to better manage the dwindling water supplies. We highlighted the Aquatic Blue Food Coalition at the Innovation Forum and joined the expert panel: Solving the Great Food Puzzle: 20 levers to scale national level action, where we spoke about how we are catalyzing the inclusion of blue foods into national level actions for food transformation.   

While we have a long way to go, this meeting signals the growing efforts to move towards adopting a food systems approach to global food and nutrition insecurity. The final communique from the Ministers’ meeting reflects this commitment and sets the following ambitious goals: 

  • The right to adequate food must be realized. It is high time to recognize it on the 2030 agenda. 
  • In particular, the young generation, women and smallholders must be supported. 
  • Multilateralism must be promoted in the face of multiple crises: hunger, energy and climate crisis, and extinction of species. 
  • The global community must stand united. 
  • Transformation towards resilient and sustainable food systems must be supported and sped up.

As we close out the first food conference of 2023, I’m hopeful as these global dialogues are increasingly focused on the importance of holistic approaches to food and nutrition that promote sustainable, inclusive, efficient, and resilient food systems transformation.  On the Climate Resilient Food Systems team at EDF, we will be looking to carry these themes forward throughout 2023, including at the UN Water Conference, 2023 Stocktaking Moment, UNFCCC COP28, and more.  But most importantly, we will look forward to working with and supporting partners and communities on the ground who are transforming food systems to create a vital earth for everyone.   

Karly Kelso is director of Climate Resilient Food Systems at EDF.

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New EDF mapping analysis identifies natural infrastructure use across watersheds

The Mississippi River Basin is sensitive to two major risks – flooding and poor water quality – and future climate change effects will continue to severely increase these risks. However, a natural solution to supporting the Mississippi River Basin (MRB) is natural infrastructure, which consists of structural or perennial vegetation, and provides multiple ecosystem services with the potential to reduce flooding and nitrate loading pollution. Our research shows that wetlands and floodplains are the best natural resources to reduce flood risk and nitrate pollution. Read More »

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Three ways to take bold action to protect urban coastal wetlands

Wetlands can be powerhouses for climate adaptation and resilience. This World Wetlands Day, we are highlighting one type of wetland that impacts people the most – coastal urban wetlands. Read More »

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A new way of partnering with the Corps leads to innovative wetland mitigation solutions and increased flood resilience.

Today marks the release of the Record of Decision (ROD) from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) on a restoration project known as the River Reintroduction into Maurepas Swamp (or Maurepas Diversion) that will serve as mitigation for the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain hurricane risk reduction levee project (WSLP). Read More »

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Danone commits to cut dairy methane emissions in partnership with farmers and EDF

Even if we completely eliminated fossil fuel emissions today, global food system emissions would cause us to exceed our 1.5 degree warming targets, unless they are slowed down. We cannot choose between food security and environmental sustainability – they are one and the same. Urgent action is needed to shift food and agriculture from a driver of climate change and biodiversity loss to a solution, with positive outcomes for producers, companies and consumers.

The good news? The global dairy company Danone is taking a big step forward by pledging to work with its farmer suppliers to reduce methane emissions from its fresh milk supply chain by 30% by 2030.

This announcement builds on past successes, with a plan to accelerate action in the years to come. It aims to achieve significant methane cuts while feeding a growing population and protecting the livelihoods of farmers around the world. And it creates a new level of ambition on methane emissions that I hope others in the food and agriculture industry will follow.

Even a large, global company can’t make this happen by itself. Danone is launching a strategic partnership with Environmental Defense Fund to support its methane reduction ambitions. Danone and EDF will work together in such areas as improved science, data and reporting standards, innovative financing models to help farmers of all sizes, and catalyzing industry and policy leadership through advocacy.

This is the first methane-specific climate pledge from a food or agriculture company. Danone’s size as a major global dairy company provides a significant opportunity for impact.

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Biden’s roadmap to nature-based solutions could be the key to future resilience planning.

In early December 2022, the Biden-Harris administration announced the release of a Roadmap to Accelerate Nature-Based Solutions to address climate change, inequity, and nature loss. This roadmap outlines five strategic recommendations for federal agencies designed to put the U.S. on a path to maximizing the use of nature-based solutions.

Coastal Resilience 2021 - Hampton Roads region, VA

Chesterfield Heights – Historic neighborhood with living shoreline construction project comprised of a raised berm (a mound of ground), grass plantings, wetland restoration, oyster reefs, and storm drains.

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Federal R&D funds are key to solving enteric methane challenge, keeping U.S. agriculture competitive

As the U.S. works to stabilize the climate and foster innovative domestic industries, reducing emissions from agriculture — currently about 10% of annual emissions — is a critical piece of the puzzle. Yet federal R&D investments in agricultural climate solutions remain 35 times smaller than clean energy R&D investments.

Of the limited agricultural R&D spending, funds aren’t going to one of the biggest climate opportunities. Enteric methane emissions, released as livestock digest their food, account for 28% of U.S. agricultural emissions, but only 2% of federal R&D mitigation funds go toward enteric methane solutions, according to new research from The Breakthrough Institute and Environmental Defense Fund.

This mismatch will increasingly put U.S. farmers and ranchers at a competitive disadvantage in global markets and misses a top climate opportunity. Congress and USDA can remedy the mismatch in the next farm bill. Read More »

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Exciting new partnerships help Groundwater Accounting Platform expand to new regions

This blog is co-authored with the California Water Data Consortium.
By Mike Myatt (Senior Director, Climate Resilient Water Systems – EDF) and Hannah Ake (Senior Program Manager – California Water Data Consortium)

A key first step toward managing groundwater sustainably in California, as required by the state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), is tracking how much water is being used and how much is available – otherwise known as water accounting – because you can’t manage what you don’t measure. This is especially true during drought.

To help groundwater agencies more easily track and communicate supply and demand, state water agencies, the California Water Data Consortium, and Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) announced a partnership last year to make an open-source Groundwater Accounting Platform (Platform) available to groundwater agencies. In the exciting latest news, three more water agencies have signed on to use the platform and help expand its functionality as the Department of Water Resources has committed more funding and expertise to further develop it. The Platform offers a readily accessible source code and is a cost-effective option for water managers to adapt and customize accounting practices; rather than developing their own tools from scratch.  Read More »

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Major banks are setting climate targets. What the agricultural finance sector needs to know.

Many major banks have set targets to reduce financed greenhouse gas emissions in their loan portfolios to zero by 2050 (also known as net zero targets). They join a growing movement of companies throughout the agricultural supply chain to set ambitious targets to reach net zero by 2050 to prevent the most severe impacts from climate change.

The Banking for Impact on Climate in Agriculture (B4ICA) initiative recently published “An introductory guide for net zero target setting for farm-based agricultural emissions” that shares best practices for banks to set net zero GHG emissions targets for their agricultural loan portfolios. The guidance helps banks setting agricultural sector emissions reduction targets as part of their commitments to the Net Zero Banking Alliance ­— an alliance of 122 banks representing 40% of global bank assets that have committed to aligning their assets with net zero GHG emissions by 2050 or sooner. Read More »

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How companies can reduce nitrogen pollution and measure progress toward climate goals

Nitrogen is essential for life, but excess nitrogen can pollute the atmosphere and water. This has a huge impact on human and ecosystem health, as well as financial losses to farmers from fertilizer — which is at a record high price — that ultimately won’t be utilized by crops.

EDF’s new N Balance Implementation Guide provides a comprehensive and pragmatic road map for food and agriculture companies to help reduce nitrogen pollution from agricultural production and claim the environmental improvements associated with nitrogen management.

n-balance

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