Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration: Putting local and regional food systems on the table of the UN Climate Negotiations

Today’s food systems account for approximately one third of total GHG emissions, are a primary cause of environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity and significantly contribute to socio-economic and health inequalities. Concrete action points on food systems have so far been neglected at previous COP negotiations and when setting National Determined Contributions (NDCs). A much stronger focus is required to consider all components of food systems in these commitments, rather than primarily focusing on agricultural production.

With most people living in cities, where around 70% of food is consumed (FAO, 2017), cities have the potential to promote and implement policies and programmes to create incentives and capacity towards urban food system transformation and innovative solutions. In order for this to really happen and be impactful, collective and integrated actions are fundamental, which means a multi-level governance approach within our system’s social infrastructure is needed.


The Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration

The Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration is a commitment by subnational governments to tackle the climate emergency through integrated food policies and to call on national governments to act. The Declaration represents a year-long process to unite forward-thinking and innovative subnational and local authorities in a joint effort to accelerate the development of integrated and sustainable food policies.

The Declaration was officially presented on November 6th, 2021 at the Glasgow City Chambers in the framework of COP26. This was supplemented by the session “The Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration: A call for multi-level action on food systems for a just transition” held on November 3rd, 2021 at the Local Governments and Municipal Authorities (LGMA) Pavilion at COP26. The two events were co-organized by the Glasgow City Council, Nourish Scotland, the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and C40, in collaboration with the Scottish Government and the Glasgow Declaration partners.

Among the 100 city and state signatories, Mr. Moura de Castro, the Coordinator of International Relations of São Paulo, Brazil, stated during his intervention at the launch event that the Declaration is “a groundbreaking commitment to address local food systems and climate change that highlights the role of local governments and call for action to make comprehensive policy support for food systems”.

Such a global commitment is crucial for many local governments to expand their work in their local food policy. Ms. Latha Swamy, Food Policy Director of the city of New Haven in the USA, shared that in cities where food is a rather nascent topic for local governments, a global impulse, such as this Declaration, helps cities secure funding. Recently, the City of New Haven was able to secure a large USDA funding to promote urban agriculture, thanks to the global push for more sustainable urban food systems.


Multi-level actions, key to achieve just transition in food systems 

Multi-level actions are required in order to achieve a just transition to low carbon and equitable food systems. Sub-national, city and local governments are leading efforts on food system transformation, but international and national government recognition, mandate, and support for city and regional food system policies and partnerships are needed for effective scaling.

 Ms. Mairi Gougeon, Scottish Cabinet Secretary, presenting the Good Food Nation Bill at the LGMA Pavilion, COP26 © Nourish Scotland, 2021

The City of Glasgow, where the COP26 is being held, is a good example of how multi-level governance enables building a more sustainable food system. During the keynote speech at the LGMA Pavilion, Ms. Mairi Gougeon, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, highlighted that “collaborative work is crucial in the food sector as the plan has to be designed carefully with stakeholders to ensure economic and social opportunities from just transition aren’t missed”. The Cabinet Secretary presented the Good Food Nation Bill, which has recently been introduced by the Scottish Parliament. This Bill aims to give effect to the right to food by providing an overarching framework for an integrated food policy.

Councilor Susan Aitken, the Leader of Glasgow City, introduced the Glasgow City Food Plan during her remarks at the launch event. The Plan tackles food poverty while addressing the climate emergency across many of its integrated actions. The idea of bringing city and non-state actors at the core of the real climate actions to address climate change is at the heart of the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration. This is evidenced by the Glasgow City Food Plan and the Scottish Good Food Nation Bill, which shows the emphasis Scotland places on multi-level and inclusive approaches to food system transformation.


Cllr. Susan Aitken of Glasgow introducing the Glasgow City Food Plan at the official launch event © Nourish Scotland

The supra-national level is important as well. Mr. Imanol Zabaleta, Director of the Center for Environmental Studies CEA in Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain, said that the “different elements of the food value chain are all enhanced by different levels of government”. He emphasized a call on the EU to put together a series of indicators of climate actions for cities to integrate in their city plans.

What is next? 

As COP26 concludes, the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration leaves a lasting legacy by setting the groundwork for bridging the gap between food and climate through the voices of the local and regional governments. As more cities and regions endorse the Declaration and look towards raising ambitions on food systems at the next cycle of NDCs and climate negotiations, the partners and signatories also look to fulfill the commitments they made when signing the Declaration.

At the closing of the Declaration launch event, Ms. Maria Carrascosa representing Cities for Agroecology and the City of Barcelona welcomed her fellow cities, especially those who are signatories of Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration, to join the Barcelona Challenge for Good Food and Climate by March 2022. The Barcelona Challenge is considered as “a child of Glasgow Declaration”. It calls on cities and their residents to address two key issues: the mitigation of and adaptation to the climate emergency, through a commitment to transform local agri-food systems to ensure access to sufficient, sustainable, healthy and nutritious diets for all, therefore preventing food vulnerability and enhancing food justice.

The ICLEI Global Food Program with its CITYFOOD Network, co-developer of the Glasgow Declaration since its inception, will continue to provide cities interested in linking food with climate action with the most inspiring stories, initiatives and good practices. The team welcomes cities and regions to continue the journey toward the transformation of the urban food systems.

Authors: Gabriella Waibel and Jiwon Lee