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What is "Just Transition"?

Urgent Action to Combat Climate Change and Its Impacts (SDG 13): Transforming Agriculture and Food Systems

This academic paper examines the relevance of agriculture and food systems to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 13, which urges action on climate change, and its ties to both agricultural systems and other SDGs.


This academic paper connects the agricultural applications of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 13 on climate action to the 2-degree target set by the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. It then demonstrates the connections between SDG 13 and the other SDGs, specifically as they relate to food systems.

To demonstrate the links between SDGs, this paper uses the example of nitrogen fertilizer use. Runoff from excessive use of nitrogen fertilizer contaminates land and water and undermines SDG 6 (clean water), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 14 (ocean life), and SDG 15 (life on land). Alternatively, if too little fertilizer is used, the resulting lower crop yields threaten SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 2 (no hunger), and SDG 3 (good health). When an optimal amount of nitrogen fertilizer is used, progress is made toward achieving the above SDGs in addition to SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production).

The authors suggest progress toward the SDGs requires a transformation of food systems. They propose a theory of change based on eight interrelated recommendations: expand private sector activity and public–private partnerships; provide innovative credit and insurance; strengthen local organizations and networking; issue climate-informed advisories and early warning systems; develop digital agriculture; develop climate-resilient and low-emission practices and technologies; prioritize pathways of change; and build capacity and enable policy and institutions.

Actions to Transform Food Systems under Climate Change

This report identifies the current failures of the global food system and defines four areas in which it can be transformed to meet food and nutritional demands and combat climate change.


“This report identifies the current failures of global food systems in eliminating food insecurity, providing nutritious food, and mitigating climate change. The global food system is currently a major contributor to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and fails to provide an adequate pathway to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

To correct these food system failures, the authors recommend 11 transformative actions across four distinct categories: rerouting farming practices to eliminate GHG emissions and increase female and youth participation; de-risking farm livelihoods to increase resiliency against variable weather and extreme events; reducing emissions through dietary shifts and reductions in food waste; and realigning policies and finance to support social movements and spur innovation.

The costs of not reforming global food systems include increased food and nutrition insecurity, decreased smallholder participation, increased rural poverty, increased gender disparities and social inclusion, lost opportunities for rural youth, increased sensitivity to changing climate and extreme weather events, and loss of biodiversity.”