Blog: Katy AskewFood sector backs climate change initiatives at UN summit

Katy Askew | 24 September 2014

Specific announcements tackled the myriad issues contributing to the mounting climate change crisis, reflecting a growing consensus that changing weather patterns are disrupting economies and having a negative impact on people's lives around the world.

"Change is in the air. Today's Climate Summit has shown an entirely new, cooperative global approach to climate change," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said. "The actions announced today by governments, businesses, finance and civil society show that many partners are eager to confront the challenges of climate change together."

More than 150 partners - from governmetnal organisations to companies such as Nestle, Unilever and Kellogg - have signed the New York Declaration on Forests which calls for cutting the loss of forests in half by 2020 and ending it a decade later in 2030.

As part of the initiative, the UN said over 20 global food companies committed to deforestation-free sourcing policies of palm oil. Three of these - the world's largest palm oil companies, Wilmar International, Golden Agri-Resources and Cargill - said they would also work together in Indonesia on implementation with governments and Indigenous Peoples.

The agreement builds on recent work undertaken by the food sector to mitigate the impact of palm oil production on deforrestation. Taken together, the share of palm oil under zero deforestation commitments has grown from 0% to about 60% in the last year. The UN said the new deal has the potential to reduce 400-450m tonnes of CO2 per year by 2020, or 2bn tons in the period through 2020.

In a separate initiative, the summit also looked to tackle the contribution that agricultural production makes to CO2 emissions.

The Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture aims to boost agricultural output while also cutting greenhouse gas emissions. "It aims to improve people's food and nutrition security to adjust agricultural practices, food systems and social policies so they account for climate change and the efficient use of natural resources," the UN said.

As part of the initiative, companies including Kellogg and Wal-Mart committed to increase the amount of food in their respective supply chains produced with climate-smart approaches.

For a flavour of the pledges set out by some of the largest companies in the food sector, click here.

Next month, just-food's contributing editor Ben Cooper will report from a two-day conference in London on deforestation.

The event, held by sustainability event company Innovation Forum, will discuss how business can tackle deforestation and feature speakers from companies including Unilever, Mondelez and Wilmar International.

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