Improving Food Systems can deliver 20% of Emissions Reductions Needed

Policymakers and companies can improve the chances of achieving climate goals and limiting global warming by making more specific commitments to transforming national food systems. Enhancing Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) for Food Systems, a new report published by WWF, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), EAT and Climate Focus, finds countries are missing significant opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and identifies 16 ways policymakers could take more action, from farm to fork.

Currently, diets and food loss and waste are widely ignored in national climate plans. Food systems  account for up to 37 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions; continuing on a business-as-usual trajectory will single-handedly exhaust the 1.5oC compatible emissions budgets for all sectors. Although 89 percent of NDCs mention agriculture production, agriculture emissions reduction targets are mainly included in wider land-use targets. More notably, other actions in the food system, such as reducing food loss and waste, or shifting to more sustainable diets, are widely ignored, despite presenting the combined opportunity to reduce emissions by as much as 12.5 Gt CO2e – the equivalent of taking 2.7 billion cars off the road.

The 16 actions identified in the report include reducing land-use change and conversion of natural habitats, which could reduce emissions by 4.6 Gt CO2e per year. Comparably, reducing food loss and waste could reduce emissions by 4.5 Gt CO2e per year. Yet only 11 countries currently mention food loss in their plans and none consider food waste. Improving production methods and reducing methane emissions from livestock, could reduce emissions by up to 1.44 Gt CO2e per year, but much greater reductions could be achieved by shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets with a higher proportion of plant-based could avoid emissions of up to 8 Gt CO2e each year. No current national climate plans explicitly discuss more sustainable diets.

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