10 Dec 2015

Nutrition at COP21 in Paris

Rachel Nugent University of Washington

It was false advertising from the start. The COP 21 side event on Climate and Nutrition: A Double Win for Sustainable Development sponsored by ACF France and IUNS that I moderated on Wednesday was NOT the only event at COP 21 on climate change and nutrition. There were at least two others to be found in Le Bourget, a gritty suburb of Paris where glitterati and wonkerati are rubbing cell phones together. One was held on December 3 where my IEG colleague, Yves Martin-Prevel from the French agency NUTRIPASS, presented the GNR 2015 main messages. And yesterday, my friends at UNSCN joined with IUNS, FAO, and WHO for a side event on "Sustainable Food Systems and Health".

But the successful ACF-GNR event was important, and not at all redundant. First, the speakers were great. Here are their main take-aways.

Mrs. Cristina TIRADO, Chair of IUNS task force on Climate Change and Nutrition, spoke about the increasingly apparent effects of climate change on under-nutrition, and the need for adaptation of agriculture and food systems to these conditions.

Mr. Oyundi NEHONDO’s key message was if (and it should be) the COP21 Final Declaration is about the well-being of all humanity, then negotiators should find it compelling to achieve Food Security without undermining the nutrition resilience / security of populations already vulnerable to and grappling now with the overwhelming challenges of climate change. Oyundi is with ACF Kenya, and a representative of Kenya’s SUN Civil Society Alliance.

Mr. Martin FRICK, UNFAO, Director of the Climate, Energy and Tenure Division expressed his view that SDG2 - eradication of hunger – is difficult but not impossible to achieve, and that policy adaptation will trigger many good developments- from gender to biodiversity, from water management to food security

Mr. Jean Pierre HALKIN, DGDEVCO – EuropeAid, Head of rural development, food security and nutrition unit, provided an impressive list of nutrition and CC projects supported by the EU, and reiterated a strong EU commitment to nutrition.

Rachel Nugent speaking at the COP21 event 2015

Here’s mine: let’s not forget that we’re talking about Malnutrition In All Its Forms. Climate change will affect diet diversity, affordability, accessibility, and quality. These changes can also hurt those 1.9 billion overweight and obese people who struggle to find and purchase a healthy diet.

Second, to quote Woody Allen, just showing up is 80% of success. Nutrition showed up at the COP 21, and we are being successful. As in other multilateral discussions, such as the FAO Council and Committee on Food Security, nutrition is gaining prominence and capturing support. There is getting to be a broader understanding of the importance of nutrition in assuring life-long well-being, from pre-conception to prevention of Alzheimer’s, as well as the ways we can work across sectors to improve it. The GNR 2015 dives deep on the topics of climate change and nutrition links, as well as food systems, and gives us plenty to act on.

Finally, I can’t help wonder whether COP 21 will turn out to be a lot like the side event on Wednesday: false advertising that ultimately delivers. We are all holding our breath in hopes that COP 21 doesn’t turn out to be another climate conference disappointment. It certainly was a good example of development depravity (yes, I had some sightings: Bianca Jagger, Jeff Sachs, Bjorn Lomborg). But it also might just be the moment that changes the world. The GNR’s broad outreach to many sectors promises to be just that.

Rachel Nugent is a member of the GNR Independent Expert Group.


For a link to the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition's climate change statement, click here.