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Business News/ News / World/  UAE to circulate COP28 draft declaration on food security

DUBAI : The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the host of the UN climate change conference (COP28) this year, will circulate a draft landmark declaration for food security transition to member countries in a few days, UAE’s climate change and environment minister Mariam Al Mehairi said in an interview.

COP28, under the UAE presidency, aims to transform food systems to ensure that it is part of national climate efforts and secure the annual $100 billion in climate finance owed to developing nations. She also highlighted the challenges in importing fertilizers and wheat from Russia because of the war and the COP28 presidency’s focus on improving lives and livelihoods in Africa, helping unlock Africa’s green energy potential and ensuring food security. Edited excerpts:

Food security has been a key focus area at G20. Can you tell us about the policy proposals related to food security at COP28?

COP28’s food agenda is developed to be kind of a northern star for countries who are serious about food system transformation. It is made of four pillars. The first pillar is political will, which we are calling the Emirates Declaration, and in a few days, I am going to send it to all agriculture ministers across all member countries to sign off on the declaration because it is important when you want to transform something, you need to have the political will. What this means is to make sure that the food system is part of the nationally determined contributions (NDCs), national adaptation plans (NAPs), and national biodiversity strategy. The second pillar is non-stake actors. We are looking at the SMEs, companies, and NGOs to bolster what they are doing in the food system conversation.The third pillar is about innovations. UAE, being a water-scarce country, has less than 5% of arable land. Because of innovations, you can now grow tomatoes in the desert. You don’t get to see fish, but Salmon is being grown in the desert. There are so many things happening because of innovations.

The fourth pillar is about scaling up finance. How can we unlock more money from the private sector to come into the food system transformation? We make sure it comes to those who really need it.

So, this agenda has been announced, and in the first part, we need the member states to get the political will and the declaration signed. I am sending out a draft in a few days to the ministers of agriculture for them to give any feedback on the declaration, and I am setting a deadline till the end of September. By October, we will send it out to all the member states to sign the declaration.

Developing nations are not receiving the $100 billion in climate funding they should get according to the Paris Agreement. With COP28 under the UAE’s leadership coming up, what efforts are being made to secure this funding?

One of our COP28 targets is to try and get this $100 billion finally up and running. There are countries such as the US and Germany that are ready, and there are other countries as well in this conversation. They all will have to agree to get this up and running. So, this is one of his priority areas. Finance is a huge agenda of the COP28.

What is your view on G20 leaders’ declaration on food security, the Russia-Ukraine issue, and Russia pulling out of the Black Sea grain deal?

I cannot talk on behalf of any country what I see for G20, the conversation that was happening on food security and the corridor or the new trade route that was tasked. For me, when I look at it from the food security angle, it’s a great thing to make sure that food is available, accessible and affordable. Russia pulling out of the Black Sea Grain deal is going to impact the world in terms of the prices of wheat. I did ask some of the African countries while I was there how it was affecting them. They are more concerned about fertilizers than grains. It was interesting to get that feedback. I still believe that, hopefully, we can find an agreement between the parties to try and get the Black Sea grain deal back on track, and the UAE is definitely always in support of dialogue and diplomacy on these issues.

One of the COP28 agenda focuses on African countries to combat climate change effects and achieve clean energy projects. Could you explain why Africa is important for the UAE and why it announced a large investment at the Africa Climate Summit?

Africa is close to the UAE. We have great strategic relationships with many African countries in the fields of travel, tourism, etc. It is very important for us to help a continent like Africa, which we know suffers a lot from climate change but contributes very little. When it comes to climate change, we ensure that things get fixed at home so that stops them and their migration routes to keep Africa intact because, at the end of the day, the UAE imports a lot of food from the African continent. We also understand that there is a safety issue in this. There are food and water aspects. There’s so much that we have to make sure that we all do our part to support Africa. We understand that such a fast-growing population requires water and food security. When you look at water resources, rain is becoming less. A lot of them are complaining about long-period droughts, pushing the food part into a critical situation. When we look at the continent overall, it is important to support them. From the conversations with them, we found that it always comes down to financing everything they want to do. They have projects ready, but they say the availability, accessibility and affordability of finance is the biggest challenge they are facing. COP28 president is taking a tour across African nations, and we want to use this as a catalyst to bring more and more funding into the region because we understand the population size is huge.

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Puja Das
Puja Das is a New Delhi based policy reporter covering food, farm, fertiliser, water, and climate policies for Mint. Puja reports on farmers' distress and how the agriculture sector is impacting India's rural economy and policy initiatives to help meet the pledges made at COP27. Puja holds a post-graduation degree in Broadcast Journalism from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore.
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Updated: 16 Sep 2023, 12:30 AM IST
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