UNEP calls for adopting sustainable food systems in post COVID-19 pandemic

food package
food package

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) on Tuesday called for the global adoption of sustainable food systems in post COVID-19 pandemic.

Inger Andersen, executive director of the UN Environment (UNEP), said that the disruptions created by the pandemic have offered a chance to radically rethink how to produce and consume food.

“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,” Anderson said during a virtual launch of a report on enhanced food systems that has been co-authored by World Wildlife Fund International.

Anderson called for reorienting consumption by halving food waste and catalyzing a shift towards more plant-rich diets as a powerful climate mitigation tool to take advantage of.

Marco Lambertini, director general, World Wildlife Fund (WWF-International) urged governments to include climate and nature positive food systems approaches in revised and more ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

“Ambitious, time-bound and measurable commitments to food systems transformation are needed if we are to achieve a 1.5oC future,” Lambertini said.

He observed that failure to embrace ambitious and time-bound measurable commitments is ignoring one of the main drivers of today’s climate crisis.

According to Lambertini, without action on how to produce and consume food, the world cannot achieve climate or biodiversity goals, which are the foundation to achieve food security, prevent the emergence of diseases and ultimately deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report, enhancing NDCs for food systems says that improved climate action on food systems can deliver 20 percent of global emissions reductions needed by 2050.

It adds that actions on diets, food loss and waste to national climate plans could reduce global greenhouse emissions by an extra 12.5 Gt CO2e annually.

The report finds that countries are missing significant opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and identifies 16 ways policymakers could take more action, from farm to fork.

“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,” the report adds.

It reveals that developed countries are less likely than developing countries to provide sector-specific mitigation actions for agriculture in their current climate plans though in absolute terms, the number of specific actions for reducing emissions in the food system in developing countries is also low.

The 16 actions identified in the report include reducing land-use change and conversion of natural habitats and reducing food loss and waste, which accounts for 8 percent of all Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) emissions.

The report calls on countries to shift to healthier and more sustainable diets with a higher proportion of plant-based than animal-based foods to avoid emissions.

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