Following last year's popular event series, TABLE will again be hosting a series of 3 online events this autumn leading up to COP28:
- Nitrogen, climate change and food: showing the connections on 16 October at 5pm BST
- Can nature-based solutions deliver on their promise? on 31 October at 5pm GMT
- Changing diets to tackle climate change - what’s the role of government? on 14 November at 5pm GMT
Please join us as we explore questions regarding the evidence and values behind debates around food systems, nature and governance.
This year marks the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28), an annual meeting of global leaders to discuss climate change. Previous iterations of COP faced criticism from food systems experts for not putting enough emphasis on the role food systems, diets and land use play in greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts on the planet. Last year's COP27 did see an increase in focus on food systems, with many more events and pavilions at the conference centering food and food systems. Our own pre-event series focused on the future of livestock and prompted many discussions about the scientific evidence and assumptions being brought into these conversations.
Please join TABLE for our “Setting the TABLE for COP28” event series this autumn to explore questions regarding the evidence and values behind several current and topical debates in food systems. This series is aimed at:
- Food systems practitioners with an interest in COP28.
- Policy makers wanting accessible and informative background information about the discussions around nature-based solutions, the science around nitrogen's role in our food systems, and how governance can help shape decision making.
- Journalists who will be covering COP28 and/or food-related briefs.
- Researchers working in the field.
- Students and anyone else who is interested in learning more about these topics.
Bringing together leading thinkers and researchers focused on climate, agriculture, and food systems, TABLE director Dr Tara Garnett will chair three online panel discussions focused on key issues that are likely to be debated at COP28. Descriptions of the three events and featured panelists and event registration details are included below. You will have the chance to submit questions throughout each event, and each discussion will be followed by an audience question-and-answer session.
Nitrogen is essential to life - it is a building block of amino acids and therefore proteins, and it’s essential for soils and for growing food. Nitrogen, whether delivered in the form of mineral fertiliser, manure, compost or via the incorporation of nitrogen fixing legumes in crop rotations, is an essential input into agricultural production.
At the same time, nitrogen is a potent greenhouse gas, responsible for around 6% of global warming. When it comes to the food system, its contribution is more significant still, at around 16% of overall food related global warming. Its negative effects don’t end there however: surplus nitrogen pollutes soils, water and air, damaging fragile aquatic and land based ecosystems and causing multiple harm to human health.
Moreover, nitrogen’s impacts can be felt on different scales, making it an issue for local policy makers as well as for the global community. While nitrous oxide, as a greenhouse gas, is a problem affecting the whole world, other concerns are more context-specific. Some countries and farm systems suffer from the problems of excess nitrogen, including eutrophication and ammonia emissions, while others suffer from its insufficiency, the result being poor yields and hunger. So how can we get the balance right? How can we manage nitrogen at both the global and the local level in ways that minimise its harms while meeting our need for safe, nutritious food? Join TABLE for a panel discussion 16 October at 5pm BST.
There is huge interest from policy makers, industry and NGOs in ‘nature-based solutions’ (NBS). This concept refers to activities that involve harnessing natural processes in ways that provide benefits both for human wellbeing and for biodiversity, with examples including the protection, restoration or construction of wetlands, green roofs in cities, or tree planting in and around cities to absorb floodwaters.
However, while the idea has been greeted with enthusiasm by many, it has also attracted strong criticism from others. Concerns include the fact that NBS projects may be poorly implemented, or that they have been co-opted by corporate interests, in ways that both over-simplify and commodify nature. In particular, in the context of climate change and the focus on net zero, there are fears that NBS simply becomes another form of carbon credit, linked to carbon trading schemes which serve as offsets of dubious quality and which also distract from the need to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, by relying on simplistic approaches such as get-rich-quick planting of fast growing tree monocultures, so-called nature-based solutions make the nature crisis worse rather than better. An equally strong criticism is that NBS are often implemented without involving - and even at the expense of - local communities and Indigenous Peoples, who, in the name of nature restoration, may be displaced from their lands. Finally, what about food? We need land for nature, for people to live on - and crucially, we also need it for producing food. So what does a NBS solution look like when it takes the human need for food security into account?
Join TABLE for a panel discussion on 31 October at 5pm GMT to bring together speakers who look at NBS from different perspectives.
A large, robust and ever growing body of evidence concludes that if we are to achieve our net zero climate commitments and address our many SDG goals - from zero hunger, to good health and wellbeing, to responsible consumption and production - then diets will need to change. For rich countries which bear historical responsibility for the climate problem, in addition to balanced calorie intake and greater dietary diversification, citizens will on average need to consume fewer animal products (meat, egg, and dairy) and more plant based foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes and wholegrains. But while the advantages for climate, biodiversity and human wellbeing of achieving such a change are potentially enormous, the obstacles are immense. They include, among other things, corporate investment in the unsustainable status quo, the entrenched nature and cultural importance of existing dietary patterns, and the need to ensure that the transition process overcomes, rather than exacerbates, existing social inequalities. Perhaps most important of all, the complexity of our global food system means the ability to effect change is always seen to lie with someone else. The facts that any one action is always going to be insufficient in and of itself (and may backfire) and that real change requires action by many different actors, can serve as an excuse for doing nothing. And yet if no one does anything, nothing will change.
In this webinar, organised by TABLE, we take a look at the role of one particular actor in the food system - Government - and ask what role Government can and should play in shifting diets in more sustainable, healthy and equitable directions. What are the essential ingredients of the policy-making puzzle? What are the obstacles against government action (ranging from corporate relocation, to voter hostility to moral objections to the state intervening in private affairs) and what might the counter arguments be?