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Executive Director's Message:

I left for Sharm El Sheik in Egypt for CoP27 immediately after the Global Conference for Sustainable Beef in Denver. Josefina joined me two days later. Bob Lowe, our GRSB Vice President, was already there and spent 12 days in Egypt altogether, for which he deserves great respect!! 

For those of you who followed CoP27 in the mainstream media, the impression you may have gained is likely different from what we saw in person.

There are a number of different zones during CoP. The Blue Zone is where the main member state negotiations take place, and includes a large number of country and international organisation / NGO pavilions. Observers are allowed in the Blue Zone, and GRSB has observer status, so we spent our time there.

There were many side events, as well as the main negotiations, so there was little chance to engage elsewhere. There were also numerous pavilions and side events in the Green Zone and in the Innovation Zone. I heard that they were very impressive, but we simply did not have the ability to engage everywhere.

On the Saturday I arrived, the American Dairy Export Council hosted a side event in the Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas (IICA) pavilion, where we talked about the need for cooperation and collaboration between sectors and countries.

This came at a good time, having just been in Denver where the value of having so many countries and supply chain actors together was very clear to all of us. I was able to draw on many of the presentations from GCSB.

On Monday, I was one of a panel in an official UNFCCC side event speaking to sustainable and resilient agri-food systems in Africa. This gave me the chance to talk about the ways in which our national roundtables function in different regions, and some of the lessons we and partner organisations have learned in Africa and beyond.

The livestock sector is of critical importance to food production in Africa due to the multipurpose nature of livestock on the continent. The majority of food is produced in mixed crop livestock systems, where cattle in particular have roles in animal traction, manure for fertiliser, food provision and as a tradable commodity when cash is needed. Much of the continent is semi-arid and arid, so there are very significant areas that are too marginal for crop production. Livestock is the only realistic way to produce food from the land.

Each morning, I attended the BINGO (Business and Industry NGOs) briefing on the state of negotiations and side events. This was a very useful way to keep track of the numerous fields of negotiations. Of major interest to GRSB and our members were the discussions on the place of agriculture in the CoP negotiations.

For the past four years, the "Koronivia" process has been where all agricultural discussions have taken place. I attended the final member state deliberations on that topic on Thursday night, which led (eventually, on the following Saturday,) to an agreement to prolong that process, now renamed "Sharm El Sheik" for the coming four years. The final text of the decision can be seen here.

In particular, I would ask you to take note of paragraphs i) j) and the following lettered paragraphs referring to the need for holistic multi-stakeholder collaboration.

Also, paragraphs 9, 10, 14 and all subsequent paragraphs in which the need for collaboration to promote sustainable agriculture is proposed. This includes "the establishment of Sharm El Sheik joint work on implementation of climate action on agriculture and food security, taking into consideration regional, national and local circumstances."

In paragraphs 17, 18 and 19 they are inviting comments and submissions, including "from the private sector, civil society and farmers organizations, among others and as appropriate, to strengthen cooperation, collaboration and partnerships" by March 27th next year.

While all of this may not seem very revolutionary, it is a step forward, and we appreciate the relevance accorded to our work in this decision.

Josefina moderated our GRSB panel, again held in the Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas (IICA) pavilion on Thursday, which discussed the role of livestock in sustainable management and use of grasslands. Several of our members were both participants and in the audience. The discussion was well attended and appreciated.

Although held in the Americas pavilion, we were lucky to have producers from both Southern Africa and Australia, as well as Argentina, represented in the panel, alongside Hillary Fenrich from NWF and a Dutch youth representative and student of peatlands.

The final session in which we had an official role was on Friday, before leaving that evening. I was a member of a panel discussion in the African Union pavilion, together with ILRI, the African Youth Pastoralist Initiative, Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network and GDP, on the role of livestock in resilient and low emission agri food systems in Africa.

Once again, we reiterated the centrality of livestock to food production in Africa, but also the need to invest. We often hear of the challenges coming from the livestock sector, but of all Official Development Assistance only 5% goes to agriculture, and only 1/25 of that 5% (i.e. 0.2%) goes to livestock interventions.

If we think there are challenges in a sector, particularly one as important as food production and systems that cover the majority of the land we use to produce food, better Invest in them, rather than Divest from them.

Overall, there were many positives from the side events and sessions we attended. It is clear that the private sector and farmer organisations are rising to the challenges of climate change on all continents. Their positivity was in direct contrast to media reporting, which focused on the slow decision making and the many problems left to solve.

I was particularly struck by a conversation with a broadcaster I had on the plane back to London. He asked if it were not difficult to talk about sustainable livestock with "everyone in the world turning vegan." What an incredibly small sample of people he must have talked to, to have taken that impression away with him!

Sure, there were many people at CoP27 opposing livestock (on ideological grounds), but the many positive sessions, and indeed the member states decision on Agriculture and food systems show that there are many, many more who recognise the importance of livestock to sustainable and climate smart food production.


Ruaraidh Petre
Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
Executive Director
November 30, 2022

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