COP26 trains its sights on food

M. Ramesh | | Updated on: Nov 08, 2021
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‘Food’ should be given equal or more weight as energy and transportation for climate action, say various speakers at the climate conference

A typical breakfast table features packets of butter, small bottles of jam or marmalade, cups of flavoured yoghurt or salads and sachets of flakes – each packaging material has put some grams of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere before arriving at the table.

We finish the first round of a plate and pick up another for the second. Is this wise? This was the question repeatedly stressed upon by various speakers at the COP26 climate conference, currently underway here. Their central message was: ‘food’ should be given equal or more weight as energy and transportation for climate action.

‘Part of the solution’

“There is no sustainable land-use without a fundamental transition in food systems,” said Joao Campari, Global Leader, Food Practice, WWF International. Campari, who is also the Chairman of Action Track 3, UN Food Systems Summit, observed that agriculture accounts for 13 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, is responsible for 30 per cent of deforestation and for 17 per cent of biodiversity loss.

He stressed that food (agriculture) can be “a part of the solution”. He observed that there were three sub-heads, viz., how food is produced, what food we consume and reduction of food waste.

Noting that 40 per cent of the foods produced are never consumed, Campari said that avoiding food loss and waste “must be part of countries’ NDCs” (nationally determined contributions or voluntary measures committed for climate action). “There are many healthy foods that are less resource-intensive,” he said, adding that “food systems (the farm-to-fork chain) should become nature positive”.

‘Immoral wastage’

Speaking along the same lines, Zitouni Ould-Dada, Deputy Director, Office of Climate Change, Environment and Biodiversity, Food and Agriculture Organisation, emphasised that it was “immoral” that 30 per cent of food produced is wasted when 811 million people go to bed hungry every day. He also pointed out that 2 billion people in the world were obese.

Echoing what Campari said, Ould-Dada also noted that while agriculture was a source of greenhouse gas emissions, it could also be looked as a potential carbon sink (as the soil can suck up atmospheric carbon dioxide).

Diane Holdorf, Executive Vice President, WBCSD, said that it was important to involve farmers in making food supply chains green. She said it must be ensured that 50 per cent of the food is produced by 2030 in a way that does not increase greenhouse gas inventory in the atmosphere.

All the speakers wanted a full day on food systems at the next COP, the COP27, which is to be held in Egypt.

Published on November 08, 2021

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