Food and Water

Food systems need to be more sustainable. Engaging global stakeholders can help

The image shows bowls of fresh vegetables to illustrate the importance of food security

Countries must come together to innovate for global food security. Image: Photo by Megan Thomas on Unsplash

Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri
Minister of Climate Change and Environment, United Arab Emirates
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Food Security

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  • Food systems are deeply entwined with the global climate crisis.
  • In many parts of the world, people are dependent on vulnerable food systems.
  • By engaging global stakeholders at all levels of the food ecosystem, we can collectively transform food systems to be more sustainable to boost food security.

In many regions of the world, particularly in developing nations, people are increasingly dependent on vulnerable food systems. The effects of climate change – warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, extreme weather events – all undermine longstanding agricultural practices, impact livelihoods and threaten to significantly increase hunger. Recent global developments continue to exacerbate food distribution and supply chain issues and contribute to rising commodity prices.

At the same time, the world’s food systems are responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. Without taking collective action to rapidly transform agriculture and food systems, we all share the risk of failing to deliver on climate and SDG commitments by 2030.

World Bank Commodity Price Data
World Bank Commodity Price Data. Image: World Bank
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Global food security can be strengthened

There is an urgent need to bolster global food security and these challenges can, at times, seem insurmountable. There is a way forward, however. Greater global collaboration can drive innovation and develop the solutions-oriented pathways necessary to combat the profound impacts of climate change on food security. In particular, initiatives that bridge the public and private sectors to support food system transformations are key.

One such initiative is the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate). Launched at COP26 and led by the United Arab Emirates and the United States, AIM for Climate seeks to significantly increase investment in climate-smart agriculture and food systems innovation over five years.

AIM for Climate

By uniting more than 200 government and non-governmental partners, including international research institutions, companies and NGOs, AIM for Climate enables greater coordination on research, development and deployment of innovative solutions at the intersection of agriculture and climate. The initiative intends to increase collective investment to $8 billion by COP27 in November 2022.

In a part of the world where arable land is limited, water scarcity is rampant and extreme heat is the norm, the UAE faces acute challenges when it comes to establishing and maintaining a resilient food system. Due to its desert climate, the country imports 90% of all food products. With the UAE’s average temperature projected to increase by 2.5˚C by 2050, global warming is also anticipated to aggravate the issue.

The effects of climate change – warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, extreme weather events – impact the global food security.
The effects of climate change – warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, extreme weather events – impact the global food security. Image: Our World In Data

To address these concerns, the UAE is prioritising the development of technology and innovation-led solutions that can enhance food security by strengthening international supply chain resilience, increasing domestic food production, reducing food loss and waste and promoting healthier and more sustainable food choices among consumers. Working in parallel with government-led programmes, private sector entities are important partners in spurring local production and driving agri-tech innovation.

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Second FoodTech Challenge gets underway

This year, the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment partnered with Abu Dhabi-based Tamkeen and ASPIRE to launch the second edition of the global FoodTech Challenge. The competition offers start-up acceleration, R&D support, mentorship opportunities and more to incubate and scale up innovative ideas within the UAE’s agri-tech ecosystem. The FoodTech Challenge seeks winning solutions and next-wave technologies that can dramatically impact food insecurity in difficult environments around the world.

In line with this innovation-based approach to food, the upcoming Food Tech Valley in Dubai will serve as a hub for start-ups, entrepreneurs and industry experts to discover and develop ideas with the potential to shape the future of food. It will also be part of the global network of Food Innovation Hubs initiated by the World Economic Forum and its public, private, and civil society partners to accelerate the transformation of food systems.

During the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022 in Davos, the UAE’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives Foundation (MBRGI) and the World Economic Forum formed a partnership to create a global platform for the Food Innovation Hubs. The new platform will enhance joint international scientific and research cooperation on food through knowledge and data exchange to develop local food production systems and support national and global food security strategies.

These initiatives build on decades of the UAE’s collaborative approach to tackling global challenges, including climate change. President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan recently announced the country will invest an additional $50 billion in the next decade to promote climate action through the deployment of clean energy solutions at home and abroad. The UAE will continue to advance climate-forward policies ahead of its hosting of COP28 in 2023.

It is now more important than ever for entities to collaborate to implement long-term food security solutions and public-private partnerships are crucial to these efforts. By engaging global stakeholders at all levels of the food ecosystem, we can collectively transform food systems to be more durable, sustainable and healthier for people everywhere and for our planet.

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