On the second day of the UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, participated in a series of plenaries and events that advocated a holistic change in global food systems. The summit, hosted in Rome, saw world leaders, policymakers, and thinkers unite to drive collective climate action.
In the first session of the day, HE Mariam Almheiri co-hosted a session with the World Food Program (WFP), which addressed members of the School Meals Coalition. In this session, Her Excellency explained how climate change and food security are interlinked. Her Excellency also touched on enhancing efforts to support societies in facing the effects of climate change.
HE Mariam Almheiri also explained how, in the UAE’s Year of Sustainability 2023 and the build-up to hosting COP28, the country is doubling-down on its commitments to transform food systems. Regarding school meals, the UAE is diversifying menus with local produce, weaving climate education into the curriculum, embracing clean energy, and vastly reducing food waste.
During the session, HE Mariam Almheiri heralded the progress made in school meal provisions as a cause for hope. She highlighted how school meals can act as transformative levers for achieving food systems transformation and climate action. Her Excellency also discussed the importance of the latest white paper from the Research Consortium for School Health and Nutrition, which states that a two-fold policy approach is required for immediate and intermediate improvements to school meals.
HE Mariam Almheiri said: “Today, in the face of global issues such as food security and climate change, we find optimism in the increasing consensus that school meal programs can serve as powerful tools for achieving transformation in our food systems and taking action against climate change.
She added: “As we celebrate the Year of Sustainability 2023 in the UAE and move closer to hosting the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), our nation reaffirms our dedication to addressing the systemic issues in food and education systems, all within the broader framework of proactive climate action. The COP28 Presidency aims to ignite a significant shift, positioning food systems transformation at the heart of the agenda. This will pave a dynamic path anchored in national leadership, active involvement of non-state actors, acceleration of innovation, and prioritisation of funding.”
On the second day of the UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment, HE Mariam Almheiri also attended a plenary session that explored the successes, challenges and the way forward in food system transformation.
This plenary provided an opportunity for Her Excellency to speak about the many successes that the UAE has seen through investing in organic farming, vertical farming, AI solutions, robotics, and hydroponics. She highlighted key UAE-based projects, including the world’s largest vertical farm “Bustanica”, created in a joint venture between Emirates Flight Catering and US-based Crop One, and Food Tech Valley in Dubai.
Alongside sharing home-grown success stories, in this session, Her Excellency explored some of the challenges governments face as they seek to overhaul and build resilience into food systems. She acknowledged that governments have historically found raising the significant investment needed to future-proof food systems and production methods challenging. Her Excellency called for the global community to find new ways to incentivise the switch to sustainable practices and pointed to this as a way to accelerate action in the private sector.
The last session of the day was a leadership dialogue, which focused on science, technology, and innovation. In this roundtable discussion, Her Excellency spoke about how the UAE is championing global agricultural innovation and research through the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), which the nation leads in collaboration with the United States and other partners.
HE Mariam Almheiri said: “AIM for Climate targets a sector that has often been neglected in climate action discussions. By investing in innovation and technology within the agricultural sector, we can unveil opportunities for effective climate change mitigation and adaptation, cater to the food needs of expanding populations in resource-strained regions, and stimulate economic growth.”
She added: “The initiative has seen substantial growth, with investments soaring from $8 billion last November to $13 billion in May this year. The UAE takes pride in leading this trailblazing initiative in cooperation with the United States of America and all participating countries, which promotes the adoption of clean and renewable energy, reduces carbon emissions, and aids the transition towards sustainable food systems.”
The UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment was a historic event for the UAE as a nation and as hosts of the upcoming COP28. HE Mariam announced the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda on the first day of the summit and called on governments worldwide to sign a Leaders Declaration on Food Systems, Agriculture, and Climate Action. Efforts to support this agenda will help end global hunger, meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, and keep 1.5°C within reach.
The Declaration invites national governments to align their national food systems and agriculture strategies with their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs), and National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans (NBSAPs). It will also celebrate countries leading the way by putting food systems and agriculture at the heart of the climate process.