UAE to release draft COP28 declaration on food security

by MMC
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DUBAI :The United Arab Emirates (UAE), host of this year’s United Nations climate change conference (COP28), will release a landmark draft declaration for the food security transition to member countries within days, said the UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam Al Mehairi. said in an interview.

COP28, under the presidency of the United Arab Emirates, aims to transform food systems to ensure their integration into national climate efforts and secure the annual $100 billion in climate finance owed to developing countries. She also highlighted the challenges of importing fertilizer and wheat from Russia due to the war and the COP28 presidency’s focus on improving lives and livelihoods in Africa, helping to unlock Africa’s green energy potential and ensuring food security. Edited excerpts:

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

The COP28 food agenda is designed to be a sort of North Star for countries that are serious about transforming their food systems. It is made up of four pillars. The first pillar is political will, which we call the Emirates Declaration, and in a few days I will send it to all the agriculture ministers of all member countries to sign the declaration because it is important when you want to transform something, you must have the political will. This means ensuring the food system is part of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and the National Biodiversity Strategy. The second pillar concerns the actors not concerned. We are turning to SMEs, businesses and NGOs to strengthen their actions in the food system debate. The third pillar concerns innovations. The United Arab Emirates, a water-poor country, has less than 5% of arable land. Thanks to innovations, you can now grow tomatoes in the desert. You don’t see any fish, but salmon is grown in the desert. So much is happening thanks to innovations.

The fourth pillar concerns increased funding. How can we unlock more money from the private sector to help transform the food system? We make sure it reaches those who really need it.

So this agenda has been announced and as a first step we need the Member States to get the political will and the declaration to be signed. I will send a draft to the agriculture ministers in a few days to give their opinion on the declaration, and I set a deadline until the end of September. By October we will send it to all Member States to sign the declaration.

Developing countries are not receiving the $100 billion in climate finance they should receive under the Paris Agreement. As the UAE-led COP28 approaches, what efforts are being made to secure this funding?

One of our goals at COP28 is to try to finally make this $100 billion work. Some countries like the United States and Germany are ready, and other countries are also participating in this conversation. They will all have to agree for it to work. So this is one of its priority areas. Finance is a major theme of COP28.

What do you think of the G20 leaders’ statement on food security, the Russian-Ukrainian issue and Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal?

I can’t speak for any country about what I see for the G20, the conversation that’s been happening on food security and the corridor or the new trade route that’s been given. For me, from a food security perspective, it’s a good thing to make sure that food is available, accessible and affordable. Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grains Agreement will impact the world in terms of wheat prices. I asked some African countries while I was there how this affected them. They care more about fertilizer than grain. It was interesting to have this feedback. I continue to believe that we can hopefully find an agreement between the parties to try to get the Black Sea Grain Agreement back on track, and the UAE always welcomes dialogue and diplomacy on these questions.

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

Africa is close to the United Arab Emirates. We have excellent strategic relationships with many African countries in the areas of travel, tourism, etc. It is very important for us to help a continent like Africa, which we know suffers greatly from climate change but contributes very little to it. When it comes to climate change, we are making sure things are sorted out at home to prevent them and their migratory routes from keeping Africa intact because at the end of the day the UAE imports a lot of food from African continent. We also understand that there is a security issue here. There are aspects related to food and water. There are so many things we need to make sure we all do our part to support Africa. We understand that such a rapidly growing population needs water and food security. When we look at water resources, rains are decreasing. Many of them complain of prolonged droughts, which put the food sector in a critical situation. When we look at the continent as a whole, it is important to support them. From our conversations with them, we’ve found that it’s always about funding whatever they want to do. They have projects ready, but they say the availability, accessibility and affordability of financing is the biggest challenge they face. The COP28 President is touring African countries, and we want to use that as a catalyst to bring ever more funding to the region, because we understand that the population size is enormous.

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