Most of my career I’ve tried to anticipate issues, or at least identify them as they unfold, build awareness, and encourage others to work on them and share their results with others. Being early gives one the ability not just to watch things evolve but to shape them directionally. Recruiting key actors with skin in the game allows them to “own” issues and solutions. It is much quicker, not to mention cheaper, to create change before investments are made in a wide range of different, often competing strategies.
In December 2011, Ban Ki-moon convened a side event at COP17 in Durban, South Africa that focused on halting deforestation. The event identified the global food system as a key driver of deforestation and habitat conversion. Christina Figueres, Jane Goodall, Richard Branson, Achim Steiner, and two or three others including myself participated in the discussion. There was resistance, including in WWF, to opening the climate tent to include food.
A dozen years later, concerns remain about adding complex issues like food production to the climate debate, as some feel it might slow or even derail efforts to move from fossil fuels to low-carbon alternatives for energy and transport. There has been much progress for energy and transport, but we still need strategies that make the transition cheaper, faster, and scalable by sharing knowledge, methodologies, experiences about what works and doesn’t, and technologies. As this critical five-year “stocktake” begins at COP28, are we reaching our goals?