US joins UAE to ‘spearhead’ global drive for agricultural innovation

US joins UAE to ‘spearhead’ global drive for agricultural innovation
US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. (AFP)
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Updated 24 September 2021

US joins UAE to ‘spearhead’ global drive for agricultural innovation

US joins UAE to ‘spearhead’ global drive for agricultural innovation
  • US climate envoy John Kerry hails UAE’s ‘innovation and ingenuity’ in food and climate challenges
  • Agriculture is a major contributor to global warming, World Bank report warns

NEW YORK: The UAE and US will collaborate to “dramatically” increase global investments in food system innovation, a top US government official said Thursday.

US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said: “We must use the power of ingenuity to improve our food systems so they provide safe, nutritious, affordable and accessible food for all, while conserving natural resources and combating the climate crisis.”

Vilsack was speaking on the first day of the UN Food Systems Summit 2021, attended by Arab News.

He said: “The US and UAE are spearheading a global initiative, the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate, with the goal of dramatically increasing public and private investing in climate-smart agriculture and food system innovation.”

Political leaders and scientists from across the world are collaborating at the summit to examine the future of global food security, with a major part of the discussion centering on the balance of ensuring an efficient agricultural system without destroying the planet.

According to the World Bank, agriculture is a “major part of the climate problem,” with farming activities accounting for 19 to 29 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

The AIM project, endorsed by the UK, Singapore, Australia, Brazil and others, will “serve as a unique platform for cooperation among many countries on these shared challenges,” US climate envoy John Kerry said earlier in the year when the AID initiative was announced.

The US and UAE said they will use the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 — taking place in New York as world leaders also gather for the General Assembly — to advance the program before launching it at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow later this year.

Kerry said that the US chose to partner with the UAE because of “the ingenuity being applied to food and climate challenges” that he witnessed on his visit there.

The need for this type of collaboration to fight climate change cannot come at a more urgent time.

In July, the UN World Food Programme said that acute food insecurity rose by 74 percent this year because of climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, while in the General Assembly on Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the pandemic has “plunged millions into extreme poverty and raised the specter of famine in a growing number of countries.”

At the same time, Guterres added, “we are waging a war against nature, and reaping the bitter harvest of ruined crops, dwindling incomes and failing food systems.”

On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden announced that his administration will make $10 billion available for the global fight against food insecurity.

However, according to Samantha Power, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, half of that amount will be spent in the US.

She said that this acknowledges that “all countries, even those that produce a surplus of food, must adapt and take steps to improve nutrition and adapt their food systems to a changing climate.”

Power added: “The other half will be spent fighting global food insecurity, helping smallholder farmers and their families escape poverty.”

This is “a recognition that the well-fed have an obligation to care for the hunger of others.”