Minister of Climate Change and Environment highlights

WAM

DUBAI, 24th February, 2022 (WAM) -- Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, joined ministerial delegations, leading executives from non-profit organizations, and prominent industry thought leaders from across the food value chain at the Global Leaders’ Symposium during the Food For Future Summit & Expo 2022.

The Summit aims to serve as the definitive platform for dialogue aimed at driving positive change in regional and global food systems, and exploring new solutions to global food security challenges. Hosted by the UAE Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub, the inaugural edition of the event in the MENA region is running from February 23 to 24 at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Day one of the gathering, themed Roadmaps & Global Food Alliances, featured a strong line-up of distinguished speakers from around the world. These included Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG2 Advocacy Hub, Abdulhakim Elwaer, Assistant Director-General of FAO, Martien Van Nieuwkoop, Global Director for Agriculture and Food at the World Bank Group, Dr Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, Dr Gunhild Stordalen, Founder and Executive Chair of EAT Foundation, and Enock Chikava, Interim Director for Agricultural Development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Several members of ministerial delegations, spanning countries from Ukraine to the Bahamas, also addressed the audience.

In her keynote speech at the Summit’s opening session, Mariam Almheiri said: "Food systems contribute over one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, while climate change is disrupting food supply, food availability, livelihoods, and human health. Unless we act decisively, these problems will worsen. These interlinked challenges require us to think about how we can guide actions to sustainably increase food production, adapt and build resilience to climate change, and explore ways to decarbonize the global food system."

In the second half of the day, she launched Food for Life, a bold, first-of-its-kind community awareness and engagement campaign that addresses the nexus of health, nutrition, and planetary well-being through promoting healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The initiative is run by MOCCAE, the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, Emirates Nature-WWF, and FAO.

The Minister said: "We want our people to connect with food – understand where our food comes from, and eat and live mindfully. We want their diets to be safe, diverse, balanced, and based on nutritious foods. Wherever possible, we want them to consciously opt for food that is locally produced to minimize its carbon footprint. Because a few small changes adopted by many people can create a domino effect that ultimately results in a huge impact. And improving our diets is one of the greatest impacts we can have on both our health and our environment."

After the launch, she accompanied VIP guests on a tour of the farmers market, set up at the venue, where they got to sample the best of the UAE’s fresh homegrown produce and other locally made food products.

On day two of the Summit, the minister participated in a high-level ministerial event themed ‘Food Systems Transformation in Action: The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) Voluntary Guidelines on Food Systems and Nutrition (VGFSN)’. Hosted by the UAE Government in collaboration with CFS, the event was part of the MENA Agri-Food Innovation Days, aimed at advancing agrifood systems transformation in the MENA region. The CFS VGFSN is a concrete tool that provides guidance for governments, UN agencies, civil society, private sector, financial institutions, and other development actors on policies and interventions to address malnutrition in all its forms through a holistic ‘food systems’ perspective.

Highlighting the magnitude of the challenge facing global food systems, she said: "Despite the global community’s drive to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 and ensure zero hunger by 2030, we cannot but feel we are not moving fast enough. Failing to supply sufficient, safe, healthy, and affordable food has put the world on a trajectory to both obesity and malnutrition. Sadly, our current food systems not only have an adverse impact on our health, but are also putting immense pressure on our environmental resources and significantly contribute to climate change."

She noted that in the face of these challenges, the UAE has resorted to implementing climate-smart agricultural methods, leveraging innovation, and building partnerships. The UAE’s efforts to promote the right food choices for its community align perfectly with the CFS VGFSN, which the country is proud to support. Helping countries integrate nutrition into their national food security and climate plans, the Guidelines bring all relevant sectors under one umbrella to build sustainable food systems.