J-WAFS launches the Alliance for the Transformation of Food and Climate Systems | MIT News


Food systems around the world are increasingly threatened by the impacts of climate change. At the same time, these systems, which include all activities from food production to consumption and food waste, are responsible for about a third of the human-made greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet.

To spur research-based innovation that will make food systems more resilient and sustainable, MIT’s Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab (J-WAFS) announced the launch of a new initiative at an event during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland. , Last week. The initiative, called the Alliance for Food and Climate Systems Transformation (FACT), will better connect researchers with farmers, food companies, policymakers and other food system stakeholders around the world.

“Time is not on our side,” says Greg Sixt, director of the FACT Alliance and head of food systems and climate research at J-WAFS. “To date, the research community has not delivered concrete solutions quickly enough or in the politically relevant form needed if urgent changes are to be made to our food systems. The FACT Alliance aims to change that.

Why, in fact, do our food systems need to be transformed?

At COP26 (which stands for “conference of the parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is being held for the 26th time this year), a number of countries pledged to end deforestation , reduce methane emissions and stop public funding of coal power. In his opening speech at the FACT Alliance event, Professor Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen, an alliance member institution, noted that food and agriculture must also be addressed because “it there is an interaction between climate change and the food system ”.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that a two-degree Celsius increase in average global temperature from pre-industrial levels could trigger a global food crisis, and emissions from food systems to they alone could get us past the two-degree mark, even though energy-related emissions could be set to zero.

Smith said dramatic and rapid transformations are needed to provide healthy and nutritious food for all, with reduced environmental impact and increased resilience to climate change. With a global network of leading research institutions and collaborating stakeholder organizations, the FACT Alliance aims to facilitate new solution-oriented research to address the most challenging aspects of food systems in the age of climate change.

How the FACT Alliance works

At the heart of the work of the FACT Alliance is the development of new methodologies to align data across scales and components of food systems, improve access to data, integrate research into the various disciplines that deal with aspects of food systems. food systems, partnering stakeholders in the research process, and assessing impact in the context of complex and interconnected food and climate systems.

The FACT Alliance will conduct what is known as ‘convergence research’, which addresses complex issues with approaches that embody deep integration between disciplines. This type of research requires close association with stakeholders who both make decisions and are directly affected by the functioning of food systems, be they farmers, extension services (i.e. – say agricultural councils), decision-makers, international aid organizations, consumers or others. By inviting stakeholders and collaborators to be part of the research process, the FACT Alliance enables engagement at the scale, geography and scope most suited to individual needs, by integrating global and local teams. for best results.

“Doing research in isolation of all the stakeholders and the goals we want to achieve will not bring the transformation we need,” Smith said. “The problem is too big for us to solve in isolation, and we need broad alliances to solve the problem, and that’s why we developed the FACT Alliance.

Members and collaborators

Led by MIT’s J-WAFS, the FACT Alliance is currently made up of 16 core members and an associated network of collaborating stakeholder organizations.

“As the central organizer of MIT’s food systems research, J-WAFS catalyzes collaboration between disciplines,” said Maria Zuber, vice president of research at MIT. “Now, by bringing together a group of world-class research institutions and stakeholders from key sectors, the FACT Alliance aims to advance research that will help mitigate climate impacts on food systems and mitigate impacts. of food systems on climate. “

J-WAFS co-organized the COP26 event “Bridging the Science-Policy Gap for Impactful, Demand-Driven Food Systems Innovation” with Columbia University, the American University of Beirut and the CGIAR Research Program on Change climate, agriculture and food security (CCAFS). The event featured a panel discussion with several members of the FACT Alliance and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

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