Race to Zero: Building Tipping Points for Systems Transformation

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Nov 26, 2020
by Patty Fong
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Race to Zero: Building Tipping Points for Systems Transformation

Patty Fong, program director, Climate & Health at the Global Alliance for the Future of Food, reflects on the Race to Zero webinar, Climate and Future of Food: Priority Actions for Systems Transformation Patty Fong says we all have a role to play in driving systems transformation

On Tuesday, 17 November 2020, as part of the UNFCCC Race to Zero Dialogues, the Global Alliance for the Future of Food and Salzburg Global Seminar brought together a diverse range of stakeholders to discuss and explore the areas of convergence and divergence between the food and climate communities. By connecting people from across sectors and silos, linking local and global, it was our hope to surface potential opportunities for collective action and to build tipping points for systems transformation.

As momentum builds towards the UN Food Systems Summit and COP26, speakers from Brazil, Germany, Kenya, and the UK shared concerns about the need for genuinely inclusive and participatory processes across the summits in 2021. They talked about the risks inherent to net-zero climate targets and the risks that come with a lack of consensus on how to transform agriculture and food systems. As well, vested interests in growth and maximizing profit at the expense of public good and environmental justice was highlighted. Speakers also expressed the urgent need to realign incentive mechanisms to promote health and sustainability.

They also shared their hopes for the future, calling on decision-makers to uphold a holistic and integrated food systems approach to planning and solutions development. Also, in recognition of the deep interconnectedness between land use, food systems, health, climate change, equity and rights, there was a call to shift to agroecological and regenerative models of farming and to respect the rights and knowledge of Indigenous Peoples. Importantly, we also heard that the urgency to act cannot come at the expense of the time and space to build trust and that the required process of deep listening and dialogue must be transparent and inclusive.

Alongside the recording - which you can watch above - here’s a taste of the dialogue:

“Step back and challenge some assumptions about reliance on economic models that brought us to this place. Bring Indigenous Peoples into the planning of Summits early, not just as speakers, do so in a respectful and rights-based way.” Andrea Carmen, Executive Director, International Indian Treaty Council

“I’m concerned that too many government and corporate “net” zero climate targets announced in the run-up to “COP26 are based on green-wash, with dangerously unrealistic reliance on carbon offsetting and negative emissions technologies. There’s a huge risk of complacency and land grabs. So let’s scrutinize these announcements and use COP26 to create radical and just transformations that bring emissions down to real zero, not just “net” zero.” Teresa Anderson, Climate Policy Coordinator, Action Aid International

“When it comes to food systems transformation, we need listening, imagination, and courage. Dialogue like this gives us space,” Nigel Topping, High Level Climate Action Champion, COP26, UK Government (paraphrasing Clare Shine at Salzburg Global Seminar).

“The call to action is to get involved, inside the process, work with us. The calls to action that will come from the action tracks are not exclusively for member states, they’re for everyone.” Martin Frick, Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit 2021

“We know this [transformation] is possible … it’s what we humans do well - change the course of history. This is our imperative today - we must change the course of history for the better and bend the arc of these events in a positive direction.” Ruth Richardson, Executive Director, Global Alliance for the Future of Food.

With 220 people in attendance on the day, there was a hive of activity taking place between attendees in the chatbox and Q&A box. Many great resources were shared so we encourage you to take a look at the chatbox here.

Ultimately, this session highlighted the imperative to transform our global food systems as a key lever for getting to 1.5C by 2050, surfacing common objectives and priority actions for diverse communities -- philanthropy, researchers, grassroots movements, businesses and investors, farmers, Indigenous Peoples, and policymakers -- to take forward according to their context and expertise. From farmers to consumers, a key message was that we are all food systems actors who can effect change. We all have a role to play in driving systems transformation and creating a healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable future.

An English transcript of the webinar is available to download here. Translations of the transcript will be made available soon.


Climate and Future of Food: Priority Actions for Systems Transformation was held in partnership with the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. To learn more about this program, please click here.

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