Connecting People and Nature: Transforming the global food systems (Open Meeting)

Tue Jun 9th 10:00am - 12:00pm

Objective of the Townhall:

To build awareness and political momentum amongst the world’s Environment Ministries for a ‘transformation of our food systems with nature at its centre’, to ensure the topic is prioritized by Member States at the next UN Environment Assembly in February 2021.

Outcomes of the Townhall:

There is a strong and unified opinion that there is an urgent need for increased collaboration across ministries and sectors, at a local and national scale with consensus at regional and global scale, to transform the world’s food systems. Food systems stakeholders and especially governments must take a holistic approach that will enable a shift to more restorative and regenerative agricultural systems, change consumption patterns and place nature at the heart of food systems. Future food systems must be sustainable and resilient while restoring and regenerating rather than degrading land, soils, and biodiversity, while providing an affordable and healthy diet to a growing population.

Key messages to the UN Environment Assembly:

-    There is a need to make food systems net nature positive, rather than net nature negative, and to showcase not only the environmental benefits, but also the economic and social benefits of a shifted food systems approach, so that policy makers can understand the necessity of implementing policies to support the much-needed transition. We can produce the food needed for the global population on existing land without further degrading nature and climate. Not doing so is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. This should be a clear message from ministers and others at the UN Environment Assembly.

-    COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability and instability of our food systems and has provided an opportunity for humanity to assess the greatest challenges of our time, and build back better towards a more holistic and sustainable future where agriculture is part of the solution to achieving food security, combatting climate change and inequity, addressing the SDG’s and ensuring sustainable development.

-    Despite the existence of multiple international targets and commitments, our current food systems are failing to take the environment, the world’s poorest communities and future livelihoods into account. There is therefore an urgent need to create high level political momentum for a shift towards integrated food and agriculture policy making that will solve these interrelated systemic issues.

-    Such political momentum to build a sustainable food and agriculture system needs policy reform. We need to: reinforce legislation to prevent pollution and other forms of environmental degradation; repurpose agriculture support away from unsustainable incentives and halt financial flows that benefit unhealthy, unsustainable, unequitable practices; translate the case for transformation into compelling economic terms and ensure that natural capital is factored into policy making.

-    The science and evidence already exist, and the case is clear, but we are in great need of action to implement recommendations. The UN Environment Assembly must support the environment ministers in their role as catalytic entry point to governments for more sustainable policies and speak to necessary policy changes. Such policies require a collaborative effort across every sector of society, and we must move away from accepting to work in individual silos.  Integrated results should be measured and give merit. UNEA and Ministries of Environment must play a role in initiating such collaborative efforts, and itself showcase initiatives involving cross-sectoral cooperation.

-    We need new leadership and partnerships which motivate governments to step up international and national collaboration on a just rural transition working towards more restorative and regenerative agricultural systems. It will require working with and alongside the financial sector to develop and invest in sustainable models, and to change and inform education and awareness on consumption and diets across the globe.

-    Member states and especially Ministries of Environment must support transition of food and agriculture as a priority in global agendas as a key part of the solution we urgently need for nature, climate and sustainable development broadly: UNEA can play a key role also in building the momentum towards a sustainable food and agriculture system. UN Food System Summit, CBD COP15, and UNFCCC COP26 will provide unprecedent opportunities to galvanize action and political momentum around the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2030 while protecting and restoring nature.

-    A transition towards sustainable food and land use systems will enable multiple new business opportunities as well as massive economic gains due to avoided hidden costs.


• James Lomax, Food Systems and Agriculture Advisor, Ecosystems Division, UNEP


  • Dag-Inge Ulstein, Minister for International Development of Norway
  • Lord Zac Goldsmith, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Department for International Development
  • Per Fredrik Pharo, FOLU Global Report Editor & Co-Lead Author
  • Agnes Kalibata, President, UN Special Envoy for the Food Systems Summit 2021
  • Gerda Verburg, UN Assistant Secretary General and Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition Initiative
  • Sunny Verghese, CEO, Olam International Limited
  • Gunhild Stordalen, CEO, EAT FORUM
  • Joao Campari, Head, Food Global Platform, WWF
  • Diane Holdorf, Managing Director of WBCSD's Food, Land and Water program
  • Felipe Villela, Founder reNature
  • Immaculate Yossa Daisy, Regional Advocacy Manager HIVOS

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