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Climate Action Q4 2023

Agriculture and food systems: the missing climate solution?

Photo: FAO / Luis Tato | Kenya’s Kirisia Forest spans over 90,000 hectares and underpins the livelihoods and heritage of indigenous communities.

Kaveh Zahedi

Director, FAO Office of Climate Change, Biodiversity and Environment

Agriculture and food systems are perhaps our greatest hope to halt the imploding climate crisis. We look to this year’s UN Climate Conference, COP28 as an opportunity to share the many ways that agrifood systems transformation can be a game changer.


Evidence from FAO’s work across countries reveals that agrifood systems are not only about food security but also have the potential to tackle the interconnected crises of biodiversity loss and climate change.

A bleak climate picture

Climate change is negatively impacting all sub-sectors in the food system: from declining yields to increases in pests and disease.

Up to 10% of the currently suitable area for major crops and livestock is projected to be climatically unsuitable mid-century. Achieving zero hunger in the age of climate change may be considered the central challenge of our times. Emissions from the sector continue to rise, contributing to a crisis that hits the farmers and agricultural communities the hardest. 

Up to 10% of the currently suitable area for
major crops and livestock is projected to
be climatically unsuitable mid-century.

Making a difference at field level

FAO’s work presents a range of solutions that can simultaneously address the climate crisis, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building resilience while promoting sustainable use of biodiversity and food security. The International Plant Treaty’s Benefit-sharing Fund has benefited more than 1 million people. Over 200 Farmer Field Schools have been set up to, ultimately, give access to and support the development of climate-resilient crops.

Since 2006, the organisation’s partnership with the Global Environment Facility has supported over 130 countries to improve the sustainability of their agrifood production and deliver results for the environment. FAO-GEF investments over the past four years have placed 116 million hectares of land and seascape under improved management, mitigating 570 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and improving the lives of 13 million people.

Accelerating action and ambition

Despite united efforts, we still see constraints in sustainable food production, which is why the agrifood sectors play such a key role in national planning processes. COP28 will be a critical juncture, giving greater visibility and momentum to the FAST Partnership, which aims to improve the quantity and quality of climate finance for the transformation of agriculture and food systems.

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