Reforming Food Systems Crucial in Fight Against Climate Change, Report Finds

In the fight to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 2 ºC (3.6 ºF) above pre-industrial levels, policy makers will need to focus on adapting their food systems to be more plant-based and sustainable, according to the United Nations and World Wildlife Fund.
Sep. 8, 2020
Daniel Dawson

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Global pol­icy mak­ers have not taken nec­es­sary food sys­tem reforms into account when for­mu­lat­ing their respec­tive plans to adhere to the Paris cli­mate agree­ment, a new report from the United Nations, World Wildlife Fund and Climate Focus has found.

According to the report, the agri­cul­ture, forestry and land-use sec­tors account for up to 37 per­cent of all anthro­pogenic (human-cre­ated) green­house gas emis­sions and nearly one-quar­ter of the world’s total emis­sions.

See more: Climate Change

Food sys­tems are a neglected mit­i­ga­tion oppor­tu­nity and there is rarely any mit­i­ga­tion oppor­tu­nity with so many sus­tain­able ben­e­fits,” Charlotte Streck, the co-founder and direc­tor of Climate Focus, said.

The report iden­ti­fies six­teen ways in which pol­i­cy­mak­ers can increase sus­tain­abil­ity through­out the food pro­duc­tion chain.

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Addressing land-use change and agri­cul­tural emis­sions, reduc­ing food loss and waste and shift­ing toward sus­tain­able and healthy diets could make up 20 per­cent of the mit­i­ga­tion effort required to keep global tem­per­a­ture increases on the 1.5 ºC (2.7 ºF) tar­get by 2050.

With a sys­tem­atic over­haul, food pro­duc­tion could be part of the solu­tion,” Emma Keller, the head of food at the World Wildlife Fund-UK said. In prac­tice, this means using farm­ing meth­ods that work with nature, restor­ing degraded or defor­ested land, shift­ing to more plant-based diets and cru­cially, not tak­ing more than we need.”

The report rec­om­mended ways in which exist­ing agri­cul­ture and ranch­ing oper­a­tions could be made more sus­tain­able by improv­ing drainage sys­tems in areas that are prone to flood­ing, invest­ing in syn­thetic fer­til­izer man­u­fac­tur­ing and shift­ing away from mono-crop­ping.

Modernizing the agri­cul­tural trans­port and stor­age sec­tor was also iden­ti­fied as a way to cut down both on green­house gas emis­sions and food waste in the post-har­vest stages of the food sys­tem. According to the report, trans­port and stor­age reforms alone could cut emis­sions by six per­cent.

While most of the reforms were geared at direct par­tic­i­pants in the agri­cul­ture and ship­ping sec­tor, the report also focused on the role of con­sumers in cut­ting back on agri­cul­tural emis­sions.

The report empha­sized that shift­ing to diets that are high in coarse grains, fruits, veg­eta­bles, nuts and seeds, along with lim­it­ing the intake of meat to 60 grams per per­son per day alone could reduce agri­cul­tural emis­sions by up to eight giga­tons of car­bon each year.

Eliminating exces­sive meat con­sump­tion, improv­ing stor­age facil­i­ties and reduc­ing food waste is good for our health and improves food secu­rity,” Streck said. With a check­list and con­crete exam­ples of activ­i­ties and tar­gets this report pro­vides guid­ance for pol­i­cy­mak­ers to inte­grate food sys­tems in their national cli­mate strate­gies.”





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