The UN Discusses Food Systems: Key Takeaways

Food Systems, Policy, Shareholder Engagement, Multi-Asset

Last week, at the Rome headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), interested parties (e.g. Governments, financing organizations and NGOs) gathered for the UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment (UNFSS+2).i The event took stock of the current status of the global food system and aimed at generating further momentum on action for food systems transformation in support of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

What should financial institutions and corporates take away from UNFSS+2? 

  1. Governments reiterated their commitment to updating their national pathways. This means that national, regional and possibly global legislation and finance will move towards targets that achieve the relevant SDGs by 2030.ii For example, the EU Commission representative confirmed that current work on an EU Food System Law is well underway and the implementation of the Deforestation Free Directive for specific goods has been adopted and is presently being implemented by Member States. See ‘Energy and Food Systems Must Work Together’ and ‘EU Regulation to Cause Log Jam in Commodity Flows’.
  1. The topic of food systems will be prominent at the next international events, notably the UNFCCC COP28 in UAE taking place in November 2023. The Minister of Climate Change and Environment of UAE, H.E.Mariam Almheiri, announced the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda, which called on governments to demonstrate leadership by signing the first-ever ‘Leaders Declaration on Food Systems, Agriculture and Climate Action’.iii Furthermore, COP28 will be convening non-state actors across the value chain to accelerate initiatives across production, consumption, and food loss & waste, whilst protecting nature and preserving livelihoods. Specifically, the Minister announced the convening of CEOs of corporates to accelerate the transition to regenerative agriculture. 
  2. Private finance is key to solving the crisis evident in the current food system. According to the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), up to USD 400 billion in additional investment per year is needed for a global transition to a more equitable, healthy and sustainable food system.iv It may sound daunting, but failure to act would have a much higher cost which is estimated to be around USD 12 trillion. Planet Tracker estimates that nearly USD 9 trillion of private finance is currently supporting the global food system (63% of its estimated asset value of USD 14 trillion) and that private finance already has the capacity to provide around USD 630 billion annually (please see Financial Markets Roadmap for Transforming the Global Food System). So, while government finance needs to be repurposed and channeled smartly, private capital is fundamental in supporting financing efforts. Furthermore, private capital is vital in supporting the transformation of value chains for resilient and efficient food systems, financing new tech solutions and promoting knowledge for more sustainable operations. 
  1. Sustainable blue food requires more attention. This food production source can be more environmentally efficient compared to land; therefore, it is an opportunity to create a more sustainable food system. This re-emphasizes earlier work by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs which demonstrated that ‘Blue foods – foods produced from the ocean and lakes and rivers – have an essential role to play in achieving food security, ending malnutrition and building healthy, nature-positive and resilient food systems’.v Investing in truly sustainable blue food production is a priority. At least USD 55 billion is needed to finance a sustainable transition of the aquaculture sector (please see ‘Avoiding Aquafailure’). Making wild-caught production more sustainable is also a way to de-risk and improve the financial health of the sector, as shown in ‘Against the Tide’.

Planet Tracker calls on FIs and corporates to:

  • Incorporate sustainable food systems strategies into their policies and actions that allow for the mitigation of risks linked to climate change and nature loss, for sustainable development and just transition in local and global food systems.
  • Invest in research, data, innovation and technology capacities in favour of more transparent, traceable and resilient food value chains.

The next meeting of the UNFSS + 4 will take place in 2025.

ii Although SDG 2 is a global commitment to ‘end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture’, the following SDGs are also connected to the food system: 3 (good health & well-being), 6 (clean water & sanitation), 8 (decent work & economic growth), 10 (reduced inequalities), 12 (responsible consumption & production), 13 (climate action) 14 (life below water), 15 (life on land), and 17 (partnership for the goals). So, 10 of the 17 SDGs are related to the food system.

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