Climate is Changing. Shouldn’t the Food Systems Change Too?
Presented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO)
L-R: Theo de Jager, World Farmers’ Organization; Zitouni Ould-Dada, Climate and Environment Division, FAO; Teresa Anderson, ActionAid Internationa; and Nico Nettelmann, ProVeg International
The side event explored the scaling up of efforts leading to sustainable agriculture at a national and global level. During the event, participants exchanged views on what needs to be done outside the UN Framework Convention Climate Change (UNFCCC) mechanisms to help transform the agriculture sector and to implement these actions at the national level, as well as actions that need to be taken in the agriculture sector to achieve the Paris Agreement.
Zitouni Ould-Dada, Climate and Environment Division, FAO, moderated the event, highlighting three challenges related to food production and consumption: having a food system that produces food with less greenhouse gas emissions; having food systems that are climate resilient; and responding to the growing population by producing food in a sustainable way. He stressed that the expected global demand for food will be 70% higher by 2050, and highlighted the need for a transformation of food systems to respond to these challenges. He stated that consumers have an impact on the planet in terms of food demand and that a transformation is needed to combat the threat of climate change to food security.
Theo de Jager, World Farmers’ Organization, said that farmers are one of the most vulnerable groups to climate change, and explained that the food chain is an interactive chain of players from bankers who finance production to farmers. He emphasized that agricultural production differs from natural production because nature does not produce a surplus of goods. He underscored the need to ensure the sustainability of our planet and consider its current capacity, and pointed to the need for the sustainable extraction of raw materials.
Teresa Anderson, ActionAid International, stressed that our food systems are not fit for purpose in the era of climate change, noting that they are distorted and illogical. She expressed concern regarding the growing number of players in these systems who “do not serve the planet” and “do not help farmers have equitable livelihoods.” She underscored the need to build a system that helps farmers adapt and cope with the disastrous impact of climate change and that their role in the transformation process has to be acknowledged. She articulated her vision of a world with stronger local food systems, where food should not have to travel long distances. She also emphasized the importance of biodiversity-friendly farming, seed diversity and including women farmers’ voices.
Nico Nettelmann, ProVeg International, described the “50 by 40 approach” that aims to reduce animal production by 50% by 2040. He underscored the need to shift away from animal protein, and called for concrete action towards this end. He noted that the change of the food system is a novel endeavor, and stressed that the key to achieving this transformation is inclusivity, with governments and local-level actors being active contributors. He outlined three steps in the system transition: the need for a peak livestock production before the reduction phase; identifying the type of animal causing the worst impact; and replacing it with the best available food. He concluded by envisioning a world where everyone chooses food that is good for humans, animals and the planet.
In the ensuing discussion, participants considered: the health and nutrition aspects of also including fruit and vegetables in trying to reduce meat consumption; using farmers’ knowledge to produce food in urban environments; the power of consumers in influencing the demand for food products; and factors that could assist the transformation, including the need for shorter rotation of livestock and genetically-improved cattle that can produce more milk, and focusing emission reduction efforts in the Northern Hemisphere where most of the production takes place.
Zitouni Ould-Dada, FAO
Teresa Anderson, ActionAid International
Theo de Jager, World Farmers’ Organization
Nico Nettelmann, ProVeg International
Dombaxe Dola, United Kingdom Youth Climate Coalition
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