A new roadmap has been developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), in an attempt to attain global food security by 2050 without breaching the global warming temperature target of 1.5C.

The FAO officially launched its roadmap today (11 December) at COP28 in Dubai.

Within the document, the group described the strategy “as a testament to the imperative of international coordination, a vital step in this transformative journey.”

It added that it “aims to revolutionise the perception of agrifood systems” and underline the importance of financing “this essential sector” to achieve sustainability.

The roadmap identifies “ten pivotal domains” which call for immediate “mobilised climate finance.”

These include, food loss and waste, forest and wetlands, soil and water, fisheries and aquaculture, crops, clean energy, livestock, and enabling healthy diets for all, as well as “systemic enablers” such as data and inclusive policies.

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By GlobalData

The FAO has set a list of targets for each of these areas which address food security and climate change.

For livestock, these include reducing methane emissions from the sector by 25% compared to a 2020 baseline and growing global “total factor productivity” by 1.7% a year by 2050.

For fisheries and aquaculture, the group set a goal of phasing out all illegal and unregulated fishing activity by 2030 and seeing over 75% growth in sustainable aquaculture production worldwide, compared to 2020.

Total global factor productivity for crops should also grow by 1.5% per year and by 2.3% in lower income nations by 2050.

By 2030, all countries should have worked towards updating their dietary guidelines for food and “provide context appropriate quantitative recommendations on dietary patterns.” They should also implement legislation which restricts child-targeted food advertising.

Around ten gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent of additional carbon should have been sequestrated in cropland and pasture soil between 2025 and 2050.

The roadmap also calls for 50% of food waste worldwide per capita to be cut at retail and consumer levels, with all food loss and waste being used in the production of feed, soil enhancement or bioenergy by 2050.

When it comes to data, the FAO has also called for all farmers to be able to use “globally recognised solutions” for tracking GHG emissions.

If those targets are achieved, it is estimated that 150 million people would no longer face hunger by 2025 compared to 2020 and that emissions from drained carbon soils would be cut by 5%.

The FAO also anticipates that by 2030, chronic hunger could be non-existent and that gross greenhouse gas emissions from agrifood would have dropped by a quarter.

The number of people unable to access healthy diets is also expected to be cut by half compared to 2020 by 2035, while agrifood systems are predicted to be CO2 neutral.

By 2050, the FAO aims to have enabled all people to follow healthy diets, and to turn global agrifood systems into “a net carbon-sink”.

The roadmap launch follows the release of a report from the organisation that revealed the amount of climate finance going towards the agrifood sector was “strikingly low”, with investment dropping12% compared to 2020, to $19bn.

Asia saw the largest decline, seeing 44% less financial support for agrifood systems compared to 2020. Latin America and the Caribbean saw a 6% boost in investment, while Africa and Europe witnessed a smaller increase of 4%.

Speaking on the new roadmap, Ruth Davis, fellow at the European Climate Foundation and senior associate at Smith School of Enterprise and Environment in Oxford, in the UK, described the strategy as “a useful start” but argued that “it doesn’t take us all the way to the destination we need.”

She added: “The roadmap’s milestones mean that companies and governments now have no excuse for ignoring food in their climate plans. But there are vital missing elements, including a much stronger focus on nature, which the FAO’s own scientists acknowledge is crucial to ensuring food security.”

Emile Frison, of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems said the FAO “should be applauded for this first step”, but added that “These efficiency-first proposals are unlikely to be enough to get us off the high pollution, high fossil fuel, high hunger track we’re on.” 

“The next rounds of this process will need to go much further in proposing a real transformation of the status quo, by putting much more emphasis on diversification, shorter supply chains and agroecology, and on tackling the massive power inequalities imposed by a handful of companies that define what we grow and eat.”

The $70trn-backed investor network FAIRR also welcomed the launch of the strategy. Last year, a $14trn investor coalition, coordinated by FAIRR, sent a statement to the FAO, calling on the UN body to develop a roadmap to tackle emissions in the food sector that was similar to that developed by The International Energy Agency in 2021.  

In a statement, Jeremy Coller, chair and founder of FAIRR said: “Investors and other stakeholders will welcome the focus on methane reduction and realignment of subsidies to support farmers’ transition but will want more detail on areas such as deforestation, healthy diets, water and antibiotic usage. However, the signal from policymakers is clear.

“With more than 150 countries now signed up to the Emirates Declaration to account for agriculture in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), a robust UN FAO roadmap could provide a pathway for countries, companies and investors to transition the sector.”

He added that while COP28 should be seen “as the turning point for a seismic shift in agri-food policy and investment in the decade ahead”, it shouldn’t be forgotten about once the event comes to a close, with it being “critically important that this COP ends with food and agriculture being accounted for in the Global Stocktake (GST).”

Food awareness non-profit ProVeg International was more critical. The group’s policy manager Stephanie Maw said the strategy failed to show how moving towards a more plant-based diet could address food security and climate issues, “especially in regions with excessive consumption of animal-based foods.”

She said: “The UN’s IPCC and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) have clearly stressed the need to shift to more plant-based diets in order to tackle climate change but the FAO has not taken this fully on board.

“In addition, the FAO Roadmap talks of ‘methane reduction technologies’ for livestock, which overlooks key aspects like the availability, scalability and affordability of these technologies, and fails to recognise the critical need for consumption shifts and livestock herd reduction, as recognised in UNEP’s Global Methane Assessment.”

She added: “Instead, we would like the FAO to consider the adverse impacts of industrial animal agriculture in pushing us across planetary boundaries and to focus on reducing global farmed animal numbers while implementing policies that accelerate a just transition to healthier, more sustainable, plant-based diets.”