The UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Mariam Bint Mohammed Almheiri, galvanized support for global food system transformation and built momentum for COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference hosted by the UAE, during her interactions with African ministers and leaders at the Africa Food Systems Forum (AGRF).
The forum, which was organized by AGRA, took place during a historic week for UAE – Africa relations, after the UAE pledged $4.5 billion in support of clean energy projects at the Africa Climate Summit.
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Speaking at the AGRF, Mariam Almheiri, who is also COP28 Food Systems Lead, said: “This has been a pivotal and historic week for the African continent. Just a few days ago, the Nairobi Declaration was endorsed in addition to billions of dollars in commitments to enable African countries achieve inclusive green growth in the face of climate change.
“On behalf of the UAE, we are truly honored to make our $4.5 billion contribution to unlock Africa’s clean energy potential. Further, our discussions at this Forum reaffirm the need to transform food systems to make them more resilient and inclusive and leverage them as engines of economic growth and prosperity for all. These events have also set a firm foundation for COP28, where energy, finance and food will be key elements of the UAE’s COP28 presidency agenda.”
Almheiri took part in a round table discussion focused on sustainable food system transformation and highlighted the importance of the COP28 Food Systems and Agriculture Agenda – which she launched at the UN Food Systems Summit +2 Stocktaking Moment in Rome in July.
The UAE Minister reiterated the central aims of the agenda: galvanizing national leadership, encouraging involvement from non-state actors, innovation scaling, and finance. She also called upon African nations to signal their commitment to working towards adaptation and mitigation across food systems by signing the Leaders Declaration on Food Systems, Agriculture and Climate Action.
A compelling speech
At a presidential session entitled ‘The Great Debate: Can Africa Feed Itself?,’ Almheiri made a compelling speech, in which she addressed African nations and called on them to sign the Leaders Declaration on Food Systems, Agriculture and Climate Action. She reminded those gathered that signing the Leaders Declaration is a powerful way to commit to wholesale food system transformation. The event was attended by the Presidents of several African nations, including Samia Suluhu Hassan, president of Tanzania; William Ruto, president of Kenya; Macky Sall, president of Senegal; and Evariste Ndayishimiye, president of Burundi.
The presidential session was one of the highlights of the Africa Food Systems Forum, and was made up of several different panel discussions and activities. During the session, the UAE Minister spoke about the importance of youth engagement in climate action. She also emphasized the crucial role that innovation plays in food system transformation and encouraged nations to share technology and knowledge in order to drive change. William Ruto, the President of Kenya then made a speech in which he fully endorsed the comments made by Almheiri.
Mariam Almheiri urged African nations to join the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate), which the UAE co-leads with the USA. This initiative, which has over 500 international partners, has raised $13 billion in investment for climate-smart agriculture and food system innovation.
She also called upon African nations join the Mangrove Alliance for Climate, a project which the UAE launched in partnership with Indonesia, to protect and restore vital mangrove populations across the world.
Mariam Almheiri also addressed a COP28 ministerial event in which she reviewed and strengthened the Leaders Declaration on Food Systems, Agriculture and Climate Action with the input of African nations. This provided an invaluable opportunity to further international collaboration and ensure that the Leadership Declaration meets the needs of countries across Africa.
Speaking at the ministerial event, the UAE minister said: “Climate change is a present, intensifying crisis that demands our immediate attention.”
“To address it, we must place food system transformation at the heart of our discussions. The UAE’s COP28 Presidency believes strongly that there is no path to realizing the Paris Agreement goals without contending with food systems and climate change action.”
In her final event of the forum, Almheiri built enthusiasm for COP28 -- which is now just 81 days away. She said the UAE’s goal was for “COP28 to act as a global turning point for climate change by refocusing efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, ensure inclusive climate financing, and deliver adaptation and mitigation initiatives that will protect lives and livelihoods.”
The minister pledged that the UAE would support Africa to access the climate finance it requires for adaptation measures. “At COP28, we will stand alongside African nations and advocate for greater climate finance to go towards food system transformation initiatives. Africa is responsible for just a small fraction of greenhouse gas emissions; it is only fitting that you receive all the support available to strengthen your food systems, which are so severely threatened by climate change.” She reminded those in attendance that in order to fix the world’s food systems, we must first fix Africa’s food systems.
Almheiri,also took part in a series of successful bilateral meetings during the forum. These included meetings with African ministers for Agriculture, Environment, Food Security and Water.
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