1st December 2023, London – The Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action has been announced today at COP28. While global leaders committed to reducing food systems emissions to reach net zero, the declaration fails to mention the role of agriculture in driving over 90% of tropical deforestation. A significant portion of this agriculture-driven deforestation is purely speculative - leading to no food production.

This year, carbon dioxide emissions from deforestation were equivalent to the annual fossil fuel emissions of India. The conversion of vast expanses of forests and other ecosystems into agricultural lands for commodities like soy, beef, and palm oil is also the leading driver of global biodiversity loss.

Alexandria Reid, Senior Global Policy Adviser at Global Witness, said:

“While UAE is right to push this otherwise ignored priority, it will miss one of the biggest sources of food-related emissions by omitting deforestation. There can be no sustainable food system until governments commit to stopping big agribusinesses deforesting the planet for profit - so this declaration fails to hit the mark.

“The UAE wants to emerge from COP28 the architect of a net zero food system, but that ambition lives and dies on whether governments bring forward the right regulations to stop big agribusinesses and their financial backers from carrying out deforestation.

“Leaders in Dubai are asleep at the wheel, about to miss the urgent global target to end the financing of commodity-driven deforestation by 2025 unless they act now.

“The UK government has flip-flopped in its climate diplomacy this year, and the evidence is in the failure to ensure the pledges made at COP26 on deforestation made the cut in this declaration. The UK should have ensured the Glasgow Leaders' Declaration - which unites over 140 countries in a pledge to halt and reverse forest loss by 2030 – was front and centre of this initiative statement.”