Improving food systems can help to achieve climate goals and could limit global warming to 1.5°C. This is the finding of a new report by the WWF, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), EAT and Climate Focus: Enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for Food Systems.
The report points out that the agriculture, forestry & land-use sectors account for a quarter (24%) of total global emissions, on a par with heat and electricity production (25%). The transportation sector contributes 15%.
This represents a huge opportunity for policymakers to make a contribution to achieving climate goals. What is needed, says the report, is more specific commitments by countries to transform their national food systems.
The report writers define food systems as including all elements (environment, people, inputs, processes, infrastructures, and institutions) and activities that relate to the production, processing, distribution, preparation and consumption of food and their socio-economic and environmental impacts.
The report finds that countries are not taking advantage of opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and puts forward 16 suggestions on how the sector can make a meaningful contribution towards achieving climate goals and limiting global warming.
Factors like diets, food loss and food waste are currently not addressed in national climate plans, the report notes.
While many countries mention the agriculture sector in their NCDs (Nationally Determined Contributors), very few set targets for food loss and waste reduction and only eleven countries mention food loss in their NDCs.
In terms of the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries must resubmit their NDCs every five years, so this is the year for countries to adjust their NCDs to open the way for their agriculture sectors to make a more meaningful contribution towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time benefit the environment and improve food security.
Food production and consumption simply can’t continue along the current business-as-usual trajectory, says the report. If we do that, the 1.5°C compatible emissions budgets for all sections will be exhausted.
‘’Without action on how we produce and consume food, we cannot achieve our climate or biodiversity goals, which are the foundation to achieve 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 in a press release.
The 16 suggestions include reducing land-use change and conversion of natural habitats. This action could reduce emissions by 4.6 Gt CO2e per year.
The report also suggests that countries consider more sustainable diets, including more plant-based diets.
Shifting to regenerative, carbon-absorbing production and adoption of healthy, predominantly plant-based diets that are affordable and accessible, as well as halving food waste and loss, are crucial actions that must be included in countries’ NDCs and integrated in their climate action plans with clear ambitions,” said Dr. Gunhild Stordalen, EAT Founder and Executive Chair, as reported in UNenvironment.