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COP26 – Caught in a Net: Agriculture, Climate Change, and the Decarbonisation Agenda

COP26 – Caught in a Net: Agriculture, Climate Change, and the Decarbonisation Agenda

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is the 26th of its kind. After a Covid-related postponement, it was held this year in Glasgow, Scotland between October 31 and November 12. Dr Chris Maughan has been in Glasgow for the first week of the event and reflects on the links between ‘corporate greenwash’ and the ‘net zero’ agenda, as well as what this means for social movements seeking just and agroecological transitions. 


COP is a notoriously difficult process to grasp – is it genuinely a space of negotiation, or just political theatre? And where does it happen? Is it in the negotiating arena of the ‘Blue Zone’, or is it somewhere else? Should we look to the ‘fringe’ events, the streets, or even Twitter to follow its tangled process?

While some impressive noises have been coming out of the Blue Zone this week – commitments to halt deforestation and reduce methane emissions by 2030, for example – or even the $100bn per year of ‘Climate Aid’ promised (but not yet delivered) to the Global South – similarly attention-grabbing noises could also be heard outside these spaces, from social movements articulating their own visions of climate justice, or those emphatically rejecting the mainstream process.

As COP26 draws to a close, this blog offers some reflections on the fraught relationship between the mainstream process and the social movements, and what this means for the fight for a just and agroecological transition.

COP26: A ‘Greenwash festival’?

Even before the event kicked off, activists were already preparing to highlight the inevitable wave of greenwash that would envelop COP26, warning of undue influence of the corporate sector…

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Failure to Engage: Civil Society Marginalized in UN Food Summit

Failure to Engage: Civil Society Marginalized in UN Food Summit

The failure of the UN Food Systems Summit to adequately engage civil society is one key reason why hundreds of civil society organisations have decided not to participate.

In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly agreed to a 15 year action plan for sustainable development. The result was a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The second sustainable development goal is related to zero hunger. In 2020, to accelerate action around the goals, the UN launched a decade of action. However, the world is not on track to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030. And instead of seeing reductions in hunger, we have seen increases, even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Recognizing the urgent need for food system change and action, UN Secretary-General António Guterres declared that the UN will convene a Food Systems Summit (FSS) in 2021 as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development.

The Summit claims it will launch bold new actions to deliver progress on all 17 SDGs, each of which relies to some degree on healthier, more sustainable and equitable food systems, noting that we can build a just and resilient world where no one is left behind.

However, many concerns have been raised about the approach the Summit has taken. Issues have been raised about high-level of corporate influence; lack of grounding in human rights; the lack of a truly transformative vision. Another major concern relates to the undermining of democratic institutions and inclusive multilateralism. This is reinforced by a failure of the FSS to build on the legacy of past World Food Summits.

Source: CSM4CFS twitter

Why this matters: participation and historical context

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Agroecology or Collapse Part III – Reclaiming the ‘archaic’, ‘anarchic’, and ‘utopian’ as the language of food system transformation

Food distribution in Rio de Janeiro during the pandemic. Source: AS-PTA.

Agroecology or Collapse Part III – Reclaiming the ‘archaic’, ‘anarchic’, and ‘utopian’ as the language of food system transformation

Agroecology is a struggle to overcome industrial agriculture and is simultaneously a practice, a science, and a movement. Detractors often criticize Agroecology saying it is archaic, anarchic, & utopian. Perhaps, paradoxically, this is where its potential lies. 

Agroecology is archaic, anarchic, and utopian – of course it is and thank goodness! In the final post of this three-part series, Paulo Petersen and Denis Monteiro push back against the arguments often made against agroecology. They engage with the language used to critique agroecology, and reverse it to articulate these as critical resources for social transformation. They go on to present the case for agroecology as the alternative model to prevent the looming collapse focusing on the Brazilian situation as a case in point. Click through to read Part I and part II. Earlier versions of this pieces were previously published in Portuguese.


Agroecology has been defined based on three interdependent dimensions: as a practice, as a scientific approach and as a social movement. As a social practice, it is expressed in the various ways in which peasant family farming and indigenous and traditional peoples and communities organize their work for the diversified production of food and other agricultural products. This is accomplished through cooperative processes developed in close interaction with ecological and socio-cultural dynamics of the territories in which they take root. By using systemic and participatory approaches, agroecology articulates frontier knowledge based on different scientific disciplines combined with popular biocultural knowledge.

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