• First joint meeting on the United Nations’ two Summit processes on food and energy held as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, world’s largest annual sustainability gathering.
  • Ministers, executives, and youth delegates proposed targets, policies, initiatives, and other outcomes for the Summits that have simultaneous food, energy, and climate benefits. 

ABU DHABI – 20 January 2021 – Ministers, executives, and youth delegates met today to jointly prepare for two landmark UN summits that will take place in New York in September: the UN Food Systems Summit and the High-Level Dialogue on Energy. Hosted by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability, the event drew nearly 1,000 participants from around the globe to propose initiatives, policies, and targets that simultaneously deliver food, energy and climate benefits.  The proposals will also feed into the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow in November.

By 2050, the world will need to feed about 10 billion people, while achieving the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals.  Food systems already account for over 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 30% of energy consumption and are vulnerable to climate change. At the same time, the world must ensure universal modern energy access for the 800 million people currently without electricity and the 3 billion without clean cooking solutions, most of whom live in agriculture-based economies.

The Ministerial Meeting – the first joint event on the preparatory processes of the two UN summits – accordingly shared bold ideas on major deliverables across food and energy systems.  The meeting featured proposals from 15 ministers, 15 private sector and international organization executives, and five youth delegates.

The proposals notably focused on using renewable energy to power indoor farming and aquaculture, as well as to provide low-cost refrigeration, drying, and processing to reduce post-harvest food loss and increase the value of agricultural products for local communities. Renewable energy is now cheaper than other forms of energy in much of the world, with the world-record low for solar power held by the UAE, enabling value-adding activities that were once prohibitively expensive in lower-income regions.  Delegates also emphasized the importance of decarbonizing food transport through a combination of biofuels and increasingly cost-competitive vehicles and machines that are powered by renewables.  Delegates particularly called for new spending and political commitment on clean cooking at the summits; open fires and inefficient stoves contribute to millions of preventable deaths and illnesses each year, disproportionately concentrated among women and children.

ADSW was chosen to host the Ministerial Meeting as the world’s largest annual sustainability event, typically attracting 45,000 delegates from over 170 countries. Within the week, the Assembly of IRENA is the world’s largest annual gathering of energy ministers.


H.E. Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN: “Our shared roadmap for recovery from COVID-19 for humanity and the planet are the Sustainable Development Goals. I call on all countries, cities, businesses and people from all parts of civil society to redouble efforts in this Decade of Action to advance all the SDGs – including those on hunger and energy – and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. With food systems accounting for 30% of all energy consumption, we have an opportunity to advance sustainable solutions using new technology to ensure we recover better from the pandemic and tackle the climate crisis.”

H.E. Dr. Agnes Kalibata, Special Envoy for the 2021 Food Systems Summit:  “With 30 per cent of the world’s available energy consumed by food systems, we are pleased to join forces with the High-Level Dialogue on Energy, IRENA, and UAE in leaning into this important conversation and identifying game-changing solutions. To achieve progress toward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Food Systems Summit will be a ‘People’s Summit’ and ‘Solutions Summit’, advancing progress on all 17 SDGs. The Summit has opened doors for everyone, and we will need networks all over the world to engage in the conversation and have their voices heard.”

H.E. Damilola Ogunbiyi, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Energy for All, Co-Chair of UN-Energy, and Co-Chair and High-level Champion for the UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy: “2021 is a pivotal year for energy. Energy is the golden thread for development and at the heart of achieving our shared global goals. The UN High-Level Dialogue on Energy in September will be a key moment to accelerate progress on Sustainable Development Goal 7 – access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 – in line with the Paris Agreement. The Dialogue and Food Systems Summit will work closely together so we can achieve a just, inclusive and sustainable energy transition that leaves no one behind and powers resilient, less wasteful food systems.”

H.E. Dr. Abdullah Belhaif Al Nuaimi, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment: “People and the planet don’t experience energy and food in silos, so we as advocates of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement must not separate them either. Today, I have heard clear logic and political commitment for designing summit outcomes that strengthen energy, food, and climate services at the same time.”

H.E. Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of State for Food and Water Security: “The global community has faced one of its most challenging years ever, with food systems especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I am optimistic about the future for both food security and energy based on our ability to innovate and to create long-term solutions. Ten years ago, few people would have believed that a country at the heart of the hydrocarbon industry would achieve solar power cheaper than any other electricity source. A mere two years ago, not many would have thought that an arid country that imports nearly 90% of its food could locally and sustainably produce salmon, blueberries, quinoa, and many other products from the heart of the desert. Both are examples of what the UAE has achieved. The UAE is working to increase yield improvement from new technology-enabled production by 30% this year, thereby dramatically reducing the energy requirements for food. We are investing heavily into R&D to reduce water and energy consumption while allowing higher-quality food to be grown at lower costs, even from marginal environments. We are committed to sharing our expertise in this area with other countries to enhance their sustainable food production capacities.”

H.E. Francesco La Camera, Director-General of IRENA: “A renewables-based energy system presents clear benefits across the socioeconomic spectrum and bolsters the achievement of key global priorities such as a more resilient global food system equipped to serve 10 billion people by 2050. The creation of crosscutting platforms for dialogue and cooperation such as this one can accelerate the renewables transition and maximise interlinkages, in this context translating into greater productivity and improved incomes across the agri-food chain, while reducing human drudgery, food loss, and emissions.”