COP27: The Nordics can pave the way for sustainable diets

What we eat and how we produce food is not only causing major damage to our environment and climate, it is also harming our health. To stress the importance of sustainable food systems as a pathway for climate action, the Nordic Pavilion in Sharm el-Sheikh was transformed into a Food Systems Pavilion on 12 November. 

“We need champion countries like the Nordic countries that come onboard and push the agenda at all levels and show the leadership at the member state level or we are not going to succeed,” says Brent Loken PhD, Global Food Lead Scientist for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 
 

The sustainability edition of NNR is a key enabler

Since decades, the evidence-based Nordic Nutrition Recommendations (NNR) have been highly acknowledged internationally, and in June 2023, the new sustainability edition will be launched. The panel discussion about climate-smart dietary recommendations and behavioural change gave a hint of the leading role that the Nordic countries can take during the next years through the NNR to showcase food systems role for health and climate.

“The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations can be an enabler, because it gives the member states permission to enact the policies that they should be. If there is any place that can do this, it is the Nordic countries,” says Brent Loken, WWF

 

NNR includes all three aspects of sustainability

This is the first time ever that sustainability will be included in the recommendations –  and this will include all three aspects of sustainability: the environmental-, economical- and social aspects. The project leader for the upcoming NNR, Rune Blomhoff, Professor at University of Oslo, has high expectations for the role of international collaboration in creating healthy and sustainable diets for the health of our planet and bodies: 

“We hope that the scientific collaboration of NNR can be used as a model for international collaboration between other countries and regions, and most importantly, that the implementation of healthy and sustainable diets in the Nordics can be used as a model for implementation in other countries as well.”  

Pekka Kosonen, Ambassador of Finland to the Arab Republic of Egypt, also points out how the recommendations can help people making more sustainable choices in their everyday lives:

“The Nordic Nutrition recommendations are needed because without them and the scientific data, people will not understand. They will not believe that this is needed when we talk about climate change.”
 

The Nordic Nutrition Recommendations can be an enabler, because it gives the member states permission to enact the policies that they should be. If there is any place that can do this, it is the Nordic countries,

Brent Loken PhD, Global Food Lead Scientist for WWF

Food systems are central for climate action

Even though the first official Food and Agriculture Pavilion was presented at COP27 by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), CGIAR and The Rockefeller Foundation, food systems are still not a central part of the climate negotiations. The need for this to change at the COP28 was required by many organizations and agenda-setters participating in Egypt as well as the panelists in the Nordic Pavilion. Brent Loken concludes that what needs to happen now is that: 

“It is recognized that a food systems approach is absolutely essential to achieve our goals.  From that, so many other things get put in place. You adopt the Koronivia*, and you use that as a mechanism for implementing agricultural practices but instead of just focusing on food production you are looking at the entire food systems”.

Bigger focus at COP28 

The need for a stronger focus on healthy and sustainable food systems approach was supported by Elena Villalobos Prats, Technical Officer, Health and Climate Change the World Health Organization (WHO):

“There is a lot of expectations that there will be a bigger focus on health at COP28. A big prospect is the inclusion of nutrition and healthy diets within in the global stocktake. If the Nordic countries can build on the implementation of the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations and can come to COP28 with results to share with other countries to undertake similar efforts, that will be great because that can build the momentum.”

The programme at the Nordic Food Systems Pavilion was moderated by Katy Harris, Senior Policy Fellow, Stockholm Environment Institute.