How countries can reduce global warming with food systems-Report

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By: Bamidele Fashube

A new report says by adding food systems to national climate plans, policymakers can reduce greenhouse emissions by 25 percent.

It said policymakers have the opportunity to adopt food systems solutions and set more ambitious targets and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and in turn, improve biodiversity, food security and public health.

The report published, by World Wildlife Fund (WWF),the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), EAT and Climate Focus states that food systems – which involves the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food, account for up to 37 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.

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Although, it said 89 percent of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) mention that agriculture production, agriculture emissions reduction targets are mainly included in wider land-use targets.

It said other actions in the food system, such as reducing food loss and waste, or shifting to more sustainable diets, are widely ignored, despite presenting the combined opportunity to reduce emissions by as much as 12.5 Gt CO2e – the equivalent of taking 2.7 billion cars off the road.

“Ambitious, time-bound and measurable commitments to food systems transformation are needed if we are to achieve a 1.5oC future. Failing to do so is ignoring one of the main drivers of today’s climate crisis.

“Currently, diets and food loss and waste are widely ignored, but by adding them to national climate plans, policymakers can improve their mitigation and adaptation contributions from food systems, by as much as 25 percent,” it says.

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It stressed the need to take action on how production and consumption of food, without which countries cannot achieve their climate or biodiversity goals, which are the foundation to achieving food security, prevent the emergence of diseases and ultimately deliver the Sustainable Development Goals.

“That’s why we urge governments to include climate and nature positive food systems approaches in revised and more ambitious NDCs submitted this year,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General WWF-International.

“The pandemic has exposed the fragility of our food supply systems, from complex value chains to impacts on our ecosystems. But it has also demonstrated that businesses and people are ready to build back better. This crisis offers us a chance to radically rethink how we produce and consume food.

“For example, reorienting consumption by halving food waste and catalyzing a shift towards more plant-rich diets, is also a powerful climate mitigation tool to take advantage of. It is up to us to seize this opportunity and put sustainable food systems at the heart of the green recovery,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP.

In line with this, the report identified 16 actions governments could take to mitigate climate change effects.

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Some of these are; reducing land-use change and conversion of natural habitats, which could reduce emissions by 4.6 Gt CO2e per year.

Also it said reducing food loss and waste, which accounts for 8 percent of all GHG emissions, could reduce emissions by 4.5 Gt CO2e per year, noting that only 11 countries currently mention food loss in their plans and none consider food waste.

It stated that improving production methods and reducing methane emissions from livestock, could also reduce emissions by up to 1.44 Gt CO2e per year.

Also, it noted that much greater reductions could be achieved by shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets with a higher proportion of plant-based than animal-based foods.

“No current national climate plans explicitly discuss more sustainable diets,” it added.

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