A challenging combination of food shortages and climate change threats to agriculture is driving demand for “transformation” of food systems, an economist told environmental journalists this week.
These issues are expected to be discussed by world leaders special United Nations Food Systems Conference September 23 in New York.
Channing Arndt, Development Economist at the International Food Policy Research Institute, told attendees at a Society of Environmental Journalists webinar that modern food systems are one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. They are also a major contributor to species loss.
And these challenges come at a time when climate change is exacerbating pressures, especially in developing countries, said Arndt.
Ag is “great source of greenhouse gases”
“Food sources are a great source of greenhouse gases,” said Arndt. Agriculture and forestry are responsible for 20% of all emissions. That’s pretty close to total power generation, ”he said.
At the same time, biologists, alarmed about the loss of biodiversity around the world, know that agriculture is contributing to the problem.
“At around 60%, food systems are seen as the biggest driver of biodiversity loss worldwide,” said Arndt.
In addition, agriculture has sparked a debate about workers’ livelihoods, said Arndt.
“Food systems are still the largest employer in the world, if you will, with billions of people earning meager or fragile livelihoods in agriculture,” said Arndt. “And that’s a big contrast to the industrialized countries, where agriculture is a relatively small employer, at least compared to 100 years ago. Food systems remain a very important lever for raising living standards in developing countries. “
Apart from the fact that the combined production of agriculture does not provide adequate nutrition worldwide.
Arndt said 40% of the world’s population couldn’t afford a nutritious diet. “It’s a big challenge,” he added.
Residents of developed countries eat too much meat, which contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, while people in developing countries do not have enough protein in their diet, the economist noted.
By 2050, the globe will need 30% more food, even if climate change disrupts agricultural systems, Arndt said.
“It is this clash of big problems and the untenability of the factors that are driving this transformation (the need),” he added.
Prime ministers discuss food shortages
Martin Frick, the UN secretary-general’s deputy special envoy, said the summit will invite prime ministers and other senior officials to review food systems.
“They will describe their national ways to create fair, more inclusive and more sustainable food systems,” said Frick.
Global government officials and others, including non-governmental organizations, will discuss “what it takes to eradicate hunger, bring nutritious food to all, build resilience and build livelihoods”. said Fricke. The summit will also include discussions on climate change, he added.
The Society of Environmental Journalists is a non-partisan professional organization based in Washington, DC