Local government leaders sign the Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration at COP26

On November 6, The Glasgow Food and Climate Declaration was officially presented by 100 local governments at Glasgow City Chambers during COP26. Initiated by IPES-Food and Nourish Scotland in collaboration with Glasgow City Council, ICLEI, C40, the Under2 Coalition, and others, the declaration is a commitment by subnational governments to tackle the climate emergency through integrated food policies.

“Food is the point where climate change and health come together,” says Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City. Participants called upon world leaders to recognize that local governments and communities are critical leaders in food systems sustainability.

“Regions, states, cities, municipalities, civil society, and communities—that is where the real climate action is being delivered. It was being delivered before now, and it will continue to be delivered regardless of what happens at those global negotiations…and without permission from those national leaders,” Aitken says.

Speakers emphasized that local action can fuel both local and global solutions. “If we are to truly see change at COP26, we need world leaders to listen, to transform land use, to cap emissions from food and farming, and to realize that the solution to many of our problems lies in support for local communities,” says Phélim Mac Cafferty, leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, the first U.K. municipality to win a Gold Sustainable Food Places Award from the food partnership organization Sustainable Food Places.

If national and international governments responded to the climate emergency in the way the local governments are currently, “the world would be in a much stronger position to avert climate breakdown,” according to Mac Cafferty.

The event celebrated not only the potential for change but changes already happening on the ground. Representatives such as Ahyani Sidik, Regional Secretary of the Surakarta City Government in Central Java, and Tunç Soyer, Mayor of Izmir, Turkey, spoke about their local efforts that comprise a ground-up approach to tackling the climate breakdown. Many emphasize the connection between work in food systems and inequality throughout their communities.

“Food is a climate challenge and it is also a social justice challenge,” says Gautier Chapuis, Deputy Mayor in charge of Local Food and Food Safety for the City of Lyon, France.

Audrey Pulver, who is part of the Mayor of Paris’ Anne Hidalgo administration, says it is essential for all citizens and visitors to Paris, no matter where they are from, to have access to quality food regardless of income: “The agriculture and food sectors are intertwined with inequalities, and as a consequence, we need policies which tackle these inequalities. We need to have policies which see things through the lens of inequalities and fighting inequalities.”

Last month, the Scottish government introduced the Good Food Nation Bill, a national plan to support social and economic wellbeing, the environment, health, and economic development in Scotland. Taking these plans from ambition to reality requires a comprehensive package of measures, according to Shona Robison, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government. This means interacting across a variety of systems from health to social justice, knowledge and education, environmental sustainability, and national prosperity.

Healthier, more resilient, and more equitable food systems will be driven by smallholder farmers, Indigenous communities, women, and youth. Supporting the communities that are transforming food systems across the world can have impacts beyond mitigation, according to Vijay Kumar Thallam, Advisor to the Andhra Pradesh Government on Agriculture and Co-Vice Chairman of RySS: “I believe very strongly it can reverse climate change.”

To join the global movement for integrated food policies, subnational, regional, local, and national governments across the world may sign the declaration online now.

“Our landscapes may look different and we might enjoy different types of food…but we are united today as signatories of the Glasgow Declaration in recognizing that our response to the climate challenge must include an inclusive and integrated approach to food policy,” says Robison.

“Our post-carbon transition must be a just one, and it must have people and cities at its heart.”

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