Meat & Livestock News

Agriculture and Food Excluded from Final COP28 Declaration, Says US Agriculture Secretary

Wooden box filled with fresh vegetables

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced that the final declaration of the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28) will not significantly address agriculture and food.

The conference, a key decision-making event under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is concluding in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Despite a special day dedicated to agriculture and food policy, with significant participation from US farm and food leaders, Vilsack noted that time constraints, due to additional review requests from the G77 group of developing countries, prevented the negotiation of specific text on these topics.

Vilsack highlighted the achievements outside the COP28 framework, including the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems and Climate Change, signed by 152 nations.

He emphasised the commitments made by various countries and companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and finance-related projects.

However, Ernie Shea, president of Solutions from the Land, expressed disappointment over the lack of a clear implementation roadmap, viewing it as a missed opportunity to progress beyond planning to actual execution. He also pointed out that this impasse delays further discussions on joint work until June 2024.

Vilsack reflected on the uniqueness of this COP meeting for agriculture and food, noting a shift in the narrative around American agriculture.

He stressed that the US could now highlight its proactive measures rather than being defensive about greenhouse gas emissions. He shared the US’s voluntary, incentive-driven, and market-based initiatives across all commodities and states.

Additionally, Vilsack brought attention to the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, a joint initiative by the US and the UAE, aimed at increasing investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation over five years (2021-2025).

The final declaration’s stance on agriculture remains uncertain, with questions about whether it would align with the US perspective or include mandates on reducing global meat consumption. Vilsack mentioned that discussions he heard were more focused on methane reduction strategies rather than meat consumption reduction.

The US is leading methane reduction through research, feed additives, methane recapture for energy production, and manure management for organic and dry fertiliser production.

Vilsack declined to comment on broader issues like fossil fuel usage reduction, focusing solely on agriculture and food.

Reports suggest that the final COP28 report may lack substantial commitments to reduce greenhouse gases. The Guardian noted a significant presence of meat and dairy lobbyists, while The New York Times reported Saudi Arabia’s opposition to fossil fuel phaseout declarations, a critical factor given the UN’s requirement for unanimous agreement.

Bloomberg highlighted that over $3 billion in climate finance has been pledged for food and agriculture at COP28, though overall commitments in this area are low. Reuters reported commitments by major commodities traders to avoid soy from farms damaging South American grasslands.

The Deccan Herald mentioned a draft document referencing “sustainable agriculture” as a climate solution without specific targets.

In a notable development, Brazil, Cambodia, Norway, and Sierra Leone formed an “Alliance of Champions” committed to transforming food systems across key themes like food security, adaptation, equity, nature, and climate mitigation.

Furthermore, a coalition of 18 philanthropies pledged over $300 million for climate change projects. The World Farmers Organization also released a report on climate-smart agriculture, funded by AgMission and supported by McDonald’s and PepsiCo.