March 22, 2022 — A new assessment from 14 countries finds that actions to improve food systems are a “missed opportunity” to cut by at least a fifth the emissions needed to avert catastrophic climate change.
Urgently, it warns that one-third of all food produced globally – around 1.3 billion metric tons – is lost or wasted every year. Overall, food production, processing, distribution, consumption and waste account for almost a third of total global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
However, food systems are “strikingly absent” from most countries’ official national emission reduction plans, according to new research from the Global Alliance for the Future of Food.
“Without transforming industrialized food systems, it will be impossible to keep global warming below the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees and ensure food security. Fortunately, our work shows that thinking differently about food opens up many avenues to reduce emissions,” said Patty Fong, climate program director at the Global Alliance for the Future of Food. FoodIngredientsFirst.
“We gathered our data by assessing each country’s climate plan based on a series of criteria related to process, content or implementation.”
Ten gigatonne emissions reduction potential
Changing the way we produce and consume food could reduce GHG emissions by more than ten gigatonnes a year, according to the Global Alliance. Right now, there are “alarming gaps” between countries’ climate ambitions and achievable solutions, Fong points out.
This conservative estimate is slightly higher than the combined emissions from global transportation and residential energy use in 2019, and equals at least 20% of the reduction needed by 2050 to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Ahead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s report on climate change mitigation, the Global Alliance extensively assessed how 14 countries – including China, Germany, Senegal, the Kingdom United States and the United States – have integrated food systems into their national climate plans.
These assessments, country case studies and a synthesis report highlight opportunities for governments to use food systems transformation to drive significant reductions in GHG emissions, as well as other health benefits, l environment and society.
“We interviewed five to ten different stakeholders in each country to gather additional information not included in the NDC itself,” she adds. “By taking this approach, we were able to compare NDCs across these criteria and make recommendations that any government could then apply to improve their plan.”
Report gigantic food waste
Even considering the approximately 1.3 billion metric tons of food wasted each year, France is the only country whose NDC includes comprehensive measures to reduce food loss and waste.
China passed an anti-food waste law last April, accompanied by a large-scale “clear your plate” campaign, but that’s not reflected in its NDC.
Food waste and loss in the United States has a GHG footprint equivalent to 4% of the country’s total emissions, but the country’s NDC does not include measures to address it.
“One of the main solutions to food waste identified by the American non-profit organization ReFED is standardized date labeling on food packaging. This means that information on how long food can be eaten is much clearer to consumers and less food ends up in the trash,” says Fong.
“France is the first country in the world to pass legislation that prohibits supermarkets from throwing away unsold food, forcing them instead to redistribute it to charities serving low-income communities.”
Other emerging food waste solutions launched this year include plant-based energy drinks made from recycled cascara, edible coatings for preserving vegetables, and vegan cookies and ice cream created with okara flour. from excess soy pulp.
Shining a light on greener commerce
The Global Alliance says new NDCs can draw inspiration from UK and EU pledges to tackle imported emissions, and Glasgow leaders’ pledge at COP26 to end deforestation and reduce deforestation. to reverse it by 2030.
However, according to the new report, none of the countries’ NDCs fully take into account emissions from food imports, especially those related to deforestation and the destruction of nature and ecosystems.
Germany is the only country committing to move away from harmful subsidies that support intensive farming practices and contribute to higher emissions – such as chemical-intensive farming, intensive animal husbandry and food production. ultra-processed foods.
Meanwhile, none of the plans assessed include specific measures to promote healthy and sustainable diets, although this has the potential to significantly reduce emissions (by 0.9 gigatonnes per year) and provide other benefits for health and the environment.
For example, although livestock accounts for around 5% of total GHG emissions in the UK, there is no reference to animal production in the country’s NDC.
Colombia, Senegal and Kenya have put in place the most ambitious measures to promote local agroecological and regenerative farming practices, which generate fewer emissions than industrial farming methods.
“We only had resources available to assess the NDCs of 14 countries, but we hope that every country committed to climate action will use our framework,” Fong concedes.
“The advantage of the framework we have developed is that it can be adopted and applied to any country – so this report and analysis should be useful to all governments interested in integrating food systems into their NDCs. , not just those for which we have done the detailed analysis at the national level.
There’s no time to lose
Countries were encouraged to submit revised NDCs before the next UN global climate meeting, COP27, in Egypt in November. They must do so by 2025 at the latest.
“There is no time to lose: governments must immediately begin to consider transforming food systems as an essential tool to reduce emissions and prevent catastrophic levels of warming,” Fong insists.
“The good news is that the work is already underway and many solutions already exist. We need better coordination and a systemic approach. There is no “one size fits all” solution; our toolkit can help governments reap the benefits of transforming food systems in line with other national policy priorities.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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