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August 8, 2019

UN report urges action on food waste and meat consumption

Reducing food waste and consuming less meat will ease pressure on land and help tackle the threat of climate change, a United Nations report has claimed.

By Dean Best

Reducing food waste and consuming less meat will ease pressure on land and help tackle the threat of climate change, a United Nations report has claimed.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which advises governments, has called for the more sustainable use of land.

Around 25-30% of food produced worldwide is being wasted, accounting for 8-10% of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

“Reduction of food loss and waste can lower GHG emissions and contribute to adaptation through reduction in the land area needed for food production,” the report read.

“During 2010-2016, global food loss and waste contributed 8-10% of total anthropogenic GHG emissions. Currently, 25-30% of total food produced is lost or wasted. Technical options such as improved harvesting techniques, on-farm storage, infrastructure, transport, packaging, retail and education can reduce food loss and waste across the supply chain.”

Cutting meat consumption and incorporating more plant-based products into diets could hit emissions, as well as improve diets, the IPCC argued.

“Balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods, such as those based on coarse grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-GHG emission systems, present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health,” the report said.

The study will be an input into forthcoming climate and environment negotiations, such as the Conference of the Parties of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (COP14) in New Delhi in September and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Santiago, the Chilean capital, in December.

“Governments challenged the IPCC to take the first ever comprehensive look at the whole land-climate system. We did this through many contributions from experts and governments worldwide. This is the first time in IPCC report history that a majority of authors – 53% – are from developing countries,” said Hoesung Lee, chair of the IPCC.

The report underlined how better land management could contribute to tackling climate change but is not the only solution. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors is essential if global warming is to be kept to well below 2ºC, if not 1.5ºC, the report said.

Tim Lang, the Professor of Food Policy at City University in London, said a move to “sustainable diets is essential”.

In 2015, governments backed the Paris Agreement goal of strengthening the global response to climate change by holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5ºC.

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