Nutrition is no longer on the side-lines at COP

By Nadra Franklin, Managing Director and Anna Kotenko, Associate Director of Communications

“The world is watching and has a simple message to all of us: Stand and deliver. Deliver the kind of meaningful climate action that people and planet so desperately need” – Antonia Guterres, United Nations Secretary General.

This year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt demonstrated to the world that we need change. And that we cannot keep talking about change without action.

At the heart of change for our planet is the global food system. The world’s dietary habits are significant contributors to climate change contributing to global biodiversity loss, deforestation, water pollution, and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The food system alone accounts for one-third of all GHGs emitted[1]. At the same time, changes to our climate have significant and detrimental impacts on global nutrition outcomes. Yet, despite these interdependencies, less than 12% of national policies consider climate, biodiversity, and nutrition[2].

Last year, at COP 26, President Biden announced that we are in a decisive decade. This is certainly true when it comes to meeting the 1.5 C targets. This year at COP 27, the Biden Administration is committing over $150 million in new support to accelerate the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) efforts across Africa. This is a welcome commitment given that Africa continues to experience disproportionate detrimental impacts of climate change. Last year, 30 million people fell into poverty due to combined impacts of COVID-19, the climate crisis, and the war in Ukraine[3]. Investment in climate adaptation and mitigation in the agriculture sector in Africa could not be more urgent.

The Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN) has also been developed in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the government of Egypt and other U.N. agencies and partners such as the Global Alliance on Nutrition to help foster collaboration and action to address climate change and nutrition. This framework and agreement for integrated action comes at a time when millions of people who are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are also most at risk of malnutrition.

Climate change impacts nutrition outcomes through multiple pathways, including lowering nutrient density, disrupting the production and marketing of food, as well as changing food prices[4]. In 2019, the Lancet Series outlined the ‘Global Syndemic’ of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change, showing how triple or ‘double duty’ actions that simultaneously impact on two or more of these global threats are necessary to make sustainable progress[5]. The bi-directional relationship between dietary habits and climate change are resulting in mutually reinforcing challenges for policy makers.

At FHI Solutions, we welcome a greater focus on joint actions that respond to this ‘syndemic’. Across our networks – Alive & Thrive, Intake, and 1,000 Days, we are committed to innovation management and to supporting system change across the nexus of climate and agriculture. In particular, we are focused on innovations in data technology to address critical gaps in data and knowledge. Without data, it is almost impossible to generate policies and actions that can respond to ever evolving interactions between natural resource use, food systems, dietary patterns, and global health outcomes, especially when national and global systems are going through such rapid change.

Today, we lack quality and up-to-date data to understand what people are eating. Through Intake – Centre for Dietary Assessment, we have developed the world’s first metric validated for global use to capture diet quality[6],[7]. The Global Diet Quality Score (GDQS) has been designed in response to the urgent need to understand what people eat to assess, monitor, and evaluate progress towards achieving healthy and sustainable diets. A free and easy to use app provides a low cost, low burden method, making it possible to design evidence-informed programs and policies to address real-time needs.

With anticipated release in 2023, the Intake4Earth app is a separate and novel app developed in conjunction with the GDQS. It allows countries to use real time data to report on the environmental impact of diets by tracking five indicators of planetary health: greenhouse gas emissions, land use, eutrophication potential, water use, and bio-diversity loss.

The collection of twenty-four hour dietary recall data is linked on the back end to environmental impact data to allow for the automatic reporting of environmental metrics related to planetary boundaries. Data on the environmental impact of diets is an essential input into global climate targets.

Going forward, a data revolution is needed to guide and monitor actions relating to national contributions to the Paris Agreement. Policies and programmes require quantitative tools and technologies to ensure swiftness in response. Another area where we have been working to innovate data capture is in the field of breastmilk substitutes. Through our innovation incubator and in partnership with the Australian National University, we are developing the Green Feeding Tool, a quantitative tool that evaluates the reduction in water use and GHC emissions by increased breastfeeding rates and reduced intake of infant formula.

Innovation requires new and novel partnerships in the fields of agriculture, climate, and nutrition and those working in the social impact space. We welcome the introduction of Climate Finance + initiative that is designed to support developing countries in issuing green bonds, alongside the Sustainable Banking Alliance and other forms of alternative finance. At the same time, at FHI Solutions, we call for greater harmony among actors and for continued decentralisation in relationship building.

While the nexus of climate and agriculture poses some of our most challenging questions when it comes to multisectoral actions, it also offers some of our greatest opportunities.

[1] Crippa, M., Solazzo, E., Guizzardi, D., Monforti-Ferrario, F., Tubiello, F. N., & Leip, A. (2021). Food systems are responsible for a third of global anthropogenic GHG emissions. Nature Food, 2, 198–209. https://doi. org/10.1038/s43016-021-00225-9

[2] Initiative on Climate Action and Nutrition (I-CAN);


[4] Fanzo, J.; Davis C.; McLaren R.; Choufani J.; The effect of climate change across food systems: Implications for nutrition outcomes; 2018; Glbal food Security, Vol. 18.

[5] Swiburn B.; Kraak, V.; Allender, S.; Atkins V.; Bakr P.; Bogard J.; The Global Syndemic of Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change: The Lancet Commission report; 2019;

[6] Miller, V., Webb, P., Micha, R., Mozaffarian, D., & Global Dietary Database. (2020). Defining diet quality: a synthesis of dietary quality metrics and their validity for the double burden of malnutrition. Lancet Planet Health, 4(8), e352–e370. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(20)30162-

[7] The GDQS was released in 2021 after Miller et al. (2020) were unable to identify a single diet quality metric that addressed the double burden of malnutrition.