Food and sustainability

Climate and food: a two-way relationship

Climate change has a significant impact on the production and availability of food, but at the same time it is considerably influenced by our daily food choices.

The International Forum on Food and Nutrition, to be held in Milan on 1 December, will debate the issues of climate risk and food risk in focused sessions and round tables with the participation of BCFN experts. Marta Antonelli, BCFN researcher, will be one of the leading voices and moderator of some of the sessions discussing these issues. Recommendations will be set out for stakeholders in the field of food production and nutrition (policy makers, academics, NGO representatives and the private sector). “There can no longer be any doubt: our food choices are a crucial weapon which we can use to limit the effects of climate change”, explains the researcher.

The climate influences the food we eat
It is relatively obvious, even to those who are not experts in the sector, that climate change and so-called global warming have an impact on the availability of food. As member of the BCFN Advisory Board and co-author of the book Eating Planet, Riccardo Valentini, points out, since the pre-industrial age, the average temperature of our planet has increased by almost 1°C: this change may seem minimal, but it has already had a clear detrimental effect on various ecosystems. The disappearance of animal and plant species and the melting of glaciers and the polar ice cap are some of the most obvious examples. Other effects include the desertification, deforestation and extreme atmospheric events which are leading to a global reduction in the productivity of our land and a loss of harvests or sources of food for human consumption. According to the latest estimates, based on the current trend of greenhouse gases, by 2050, agricultural production will have dropped by 8%, while the demand for food from a continually growing global population will have increased by 56%. Consequently, we will need more cultivable land, bearing in mind that the method used up to this point - cutting down tropical forests - has led to the emission of 3.6 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year, to which we can also add another 6 billion tonnes generated by agriculture, transport and heating.
Efforts by the international community to find a solution produced the Kyoto protocol in 1997, which set out binding commitments for the reduction of greenhouse gases, and the more recent Paris protocol, signed in December 2015, in which countries pledged to reach the common objective of limiting the global temperature rise to 2°C, with different commitments established for each country based on their past responsibilities.

Our food choices influence the climate
“Perhaps less obvious, but just as important, is the impact that daily food choices can have on climate change”, explains Marta Antonelli. “Altering our habits on a global scale can be considered as one of the most effective solutions, and this is backed up by international data”. A UK report from the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), Prosperous living for the world in 2050: insights from the Global Calculator, shows that if in 2050 the world’s population – around 9.5 billion people according to FAO estimates – consumed 2,100 kcal per day, of which only 160 came from meat, as suggested by the WHO, CO2 emissions would be reduced by a third compared to 2011 values. This clearly highlights how more sustainable food choices really can make a difference.
The issue was tackled by the BCFN in a workshop called “Climate@risk and Food@risk” which was held in Rome on 22 April this year. “The agro-food business as we currently know it is no longer a feasible option”1 states the Call To Action recently launched by the BCFN, in an appeal to everyone, from governments to individuals, to work together to transform society with new paradigms and above all a new awareness. A second workshop aimed at putting theory into practice by finalising recommendations for all stakeholders in the food sector is planned for the Forum in December.

Original quote1
Business as usual is no longer an option
With this call to action we entreat farmers, businesses, citizens and governments to work together to transform society with new rules and paradigms, new solutions, new business models, and a new awareness.


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