Climate and Nutrition at COP28: Integrated action for sustainable impact

COP28 UNNutrition

As the global spotlight turns to climate action, The 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28) creates a critical opportunity to raise commitment to transformative actions to deliver healthy diets from sustainable food systems for people and the planet. Thanks to the efforts of frontrunner Member States, academics, civil society organizations, UN agencies and the leadership of the COP27 and COP28 presidencies, this COP is set to feature a greater focus on food systems and nutrition than ever before.  

UN-Nutrition Members are actively promoting the integration of nutrition and climate action throughout the COP28 proceedings. This includes united efforts under the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN) which will have a strong presence at COP28, the Coalition of Action on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems (HDSFS Coalition), the SUN Movement and the One Planet Network for Sustainable Food Systems.

You can find a host of nutrition related COP28 events listed here.

The key messages below advocate for strengthened integration of nutrition and climate action throughout food, water, health, and social protection systems, championing healthy diets from sustainable food systems as a solution to two of the world’s greatest, intertwined challenges– climate change and malnutrition in all its forms. They integrated the key messages of both the HDSFS Coalition and the I-CAN initiative.

Where we are now:

  • Global Nutrition Crisis: Worldwide, more than 3.1 billion people can not afford a healthy diet,  between 691 and 783 million people in the world are facing hunger and about 2.4 billion people are moderately or severely food insecure. More than 2 billion people are affected by micronutrient deficiencies, while over 650 million suffer from obesity [1-4].
  • The Critical Relationship Between Food Systems & Climate: Current food systems are generating over a third of all GHG emissions. Climate variability and extreme weather events are among the main factors behind the recent increase in hunger, and are predicted to push over 100 million additional people into extreme poverty by 2030. If global temperatures rise by 2oC, stunting rates are predicted to double. If countries reach their climate goals in all sectors other than food systems, the Paris targets will still not be met – underlining the importance of prioritizing transformative food systems actions for people and planet within climate action agendas to deliver on the legally binding Paris Agreement [5-9].
  • Current Policy Action: A recently published paper contributing to the Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN)[10], and led by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), reported a set of 13 indicators to gauge the extent of climate and nutrition integration in commitments, financing, policy and action enabling the monitoring of progress. The paper found that just 2% of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and 16% of National Action Plans (NAPs) include distinct plans to mobilize resources for action connecting climate and nutrition, while 60% of NDCs and 21% of NAPs did not make the connection between nutrition and climate. 
  • A critical funding gap: The I-CAN report also showed that funding is the weakest area of nutrition and climate action integration, with only 1% of official development assistance funding to climate in 2019–2021 explicitly mentioning nutrition.9 Yet, the returns on such action are high, with a shift towards sustainable, climate resilient, healthy diets modeled to help reduce health and climate change costs by up to US$ 1.3 trillion [11]. 
  • The opportunity to catalyze sustainable development [12]: Responding to climate change and malnutrition reveals a range of areas where the two interact and where addressing one can have positive impacts on the other.  Evidence shows that looking closely at systems that impact nutrition (food, water, social protection and health) can provide important guidance for responding jointly to climate change and malnutrition.  Efforts should focus on scaling these responses, while generating more evidence to identify ways to achieve maximum impact. Responding to climate change requires efforts across sectors. Integrated action to deliver climate and nutrition benefits provides one solution to two of our biggest barriers to sustainable development.

Where we want to go:

  • Strengthened integration of nutrition and climate within transformative actions for food, water, health, social protection systems
  • A supportive, resourced policy environment that empowers producers, retailers, and consumers towards healthy diets from sustainable food systems
  • Food production and transformation actors from farm to fork working towards ensuring healthy, diverse and safe foods are sustainably produced.
I-CAN: Outcomes of nutrition-sensitive, climate-smart systems for sustainable development
I-CAN Systems

What we need:

  • A clear roadmap of action for global climate action, incorporating concrete steps to integrate nutrition and climate action, supported by clear indicators to monitor progress within the global stocktake
  • Clear governance structures with coordination across food, health, social protection, water and education systems for integrated policy action to deliver healthy diets from sustainable food systems, preferably based on legislation and regulations.
  • All NDCs and NAPs to include integrated, resourced actions that address nutrition and climate challenges by enabling the delivery of healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Such actions could include, but are not limited to:  
    • The inclusion of nutrition in climate change and health vulnerability assessments; 
    • Practicing nutritious public food procurement from sustainable food systems;
    • Engaging  with retailers and markets at all levels to provide affordable, accessible and available variety of nutritious foods; 
    • Developing and implementing food systems-based dietary guidelines that consider environmental sustainability; 
    • ​Diversifying crop and animal production while protecting genetic resources;​ 
    • Managing soils sustainably;
    • Enabling sustainable local food markets;
    • Enhanced management and reduction of food loss and waste; 
    • Promoting consumer awareness and behaviour change actions towards consuming healthy diets from sustainable food systems;
    • Updating WASH policies and plans to address climate change and build climate resilience; 
    • Ensuring that disaster and climate change strategies factor in immediate food and nutrition needs;
    • Enhance gender transformative actions by ensuring reduction in inequalities in access to health and nutrition services and social protection, control over resources, agency and decision-making power to improve consumption of healthy diets from sustainable food systems;
    • Employing a One Health approach (fully considering health problems holistically across species and sectors), to connect health systems for multispecies health promotion; and​ 
    • Increasing availability, timeliness and use of data identifying health and nutrition risks from climate change and vice versa.