How can food systems sustainably provide healthy food for a growing population, while addressing and adapting to climate change? At the recent Philanthropy Australia summit; food, land and philanthropy experts came together to discuss how philanthropy can support Australia to become a leader in sustainable food, agriculture and land use transitions. 

The food and land sector is about far more than reducing emissions. Amongst other pressures, the sector is relied on to provide healthy food for a growing global population. Craig Connelly, CEO, Ian Potter Foundation moderated a panel discussion on the challenges facing the system, and how to overcome them. Craig was joined by Dr Guillermo Castelleja, Senior Adviser for the Global Alliance for the Future of Food; Hayley Morris, Executive Director of the Morris Family Foundation; Charlie Prell, Deputy Chair, Farmers for Climate Action and our own Anna Skarbek, CEO of ClimateWorks. 

The panel touched on the significance of protecting biodiversity. Dr Guillermo explained the international trend affecting food and land systems: ‘the full cost of protecting nature and biodiversity worldwide is estimated to be about US$1 trillian. Actual funding is US$120 billion’. Globally, he shared, agriculture is estimated to account for up to 26 per cent of emissions. But food waste is a huge issue, with up to a third of all produced food being thrown away. This means that up to 10 per cent of emissions is being generated by wasted food.

Anna described how biodiversity, natural capital and sustainability metrics can be slotted into existing frameworks such as bond certification, policy action and investment. Hayley, speaking from the 12 years experience the Morris Family Foundation has in philanthropy, shared that while ‘change is happening, it’s not fast enough’. Craig described the role of philanthropy as ‘recognising that organisations like ClimateWorks spend every day – and every minute of everyday – thinking deeply about the issue.’

By supporting the transition to a sustainable food and land use sector – now – philanthropy can propel the system forward and ‘catch up’ on ten years of work. Keeping the limiting of global temperature rise to 1.5 C degrees on the table.

‘The best way to facilitate change as a funder is to empower those capable of delivering on that change,’ Craig Connelly, CEO, Ian Potter Foundation

Australia benefits from abundant land resources, but there’s increasing competition for its use. The food and land use sector in Australia is diverse. ClimateWorks’ Land Use Futures program asks, how can food systems sustainably provide healthy food for a growing population, while addressing and adapting to climate change? First and foremost, the program is about bringing together diverse stakeholders and finding common goals.

In 2019 the program brought together farmers, land managers, policy experts, conservationists and more. Together, they identified that Australia wasn’t valuing food and land resources in a measurable way. From this, another program was launched: the Natural Capital Investment Initiative, which aims to enable the measurement of natural capital at scale. 

This year, both programs are bringing diverse groups from the food and land use sector together once again. Land Use Futures is co-creating a vision for Australia’s food and land sector, while the Natural Capital investment Initiative is testing a proof-of-concept measurement tool. 

Anna explained that what’s been amazing in these sessions is ‘how aligned these very diverse groups are. We ultimately all want the same thing: regional livelihoods, prosperous communities, healthy landscapes, productive food systems and protection for nature’. Charlie echoed these sentiments, describing how, for many farmers, climate action is about protecting not just their livelihoods, but also their connection with the natural environment.

‘We have a real window where biodiversity, food and natural capital is being instituted into sustainable farming. To date, that goal has been about 10 years behind in terms of metrics, political attention and funding solutions,’ Anna said. 

Find out more about Land Use Futures, the Natural Capital Investment Initiative, and how philanthropy enables ClimateWorks to bridge the gap between climate action and research.