The Global Alliance for the Future of Food recently released a toolkit to help countries adapt food systems to climate change through nationally defined contributions (NDCs).
“We want to recognize all governments and start working on the opportunity to use food transformation to reduce emissions,” Patty Fong, program director of the Global Alliance for Climate and Health and Wellbeing, told Food Tank.
The toolkit is for policy makers, climate advisers and other stakeholders. It includes a brief report, an assessment of 14 countries, an assessment framework and a case study. The goal of the Global Alliance is to demonstrate opportunities for governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut off additional health, environmental and social benefits through food transformation.
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” Fong explains “Our toolkit has a framework that any country can use to assess gaps and opportunities to incorporate food system transformation into its own climate plan, enabling decision makers to account for their local contexts and needs.”
The NDC represents the efforts of each country to reduce national emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change. NDCs also work to track global progress on climate goals. The Global Alliance has designed an evaluation framework to help policymakers and policy proponents identify food supply opportunities.
“Without the transformation of the industrialized food system, it would be impossible to keep global warming below the critical 1.5 degree threshold,” Fong told the food tank. Nature Climate change Research shows that changing the way people produce and consume food can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10.3 gigatonnes per year. This is more than the combined emissions from global transportation and residential energy use in 2019.
The Assessment Framework uses the Global Alliance's 7 Call to Action and Guiding Principles to evaluate a country's performance in the NDC. Criteria include ensuring inclusive and participatory governance, enabling agro-based and reproductive practices, and supporting food systems that are resilient, inclusive and interconnected.
The assessment reveals that 14 countries have evaluated the NDC to include aspects of food production and promote agronomy and reproductive agriculture. Colombia and Kenya, for example, put forward the most ambitious agro-realistic measures. But almost all countries ignore the demand-side measures involving consumers to change food, tackle food waste and reduce emissions after harvest.
Although China includes the goal of promoting green lifestyle, the country does not mention sustainable food. And Vanuatu, France and South Africa are the only countries that are taking steps to reduce the impact of food transportation.
Fong explained that many countries focus NDCs on food production practices without various measures. “There is a bias towards the most efficient (affordable and fastest) mitigation path, which often leads to increasing change in the system, rather than looking at how the system itself needs to be fundamentally transformed,” Fong said.
Another important reason, Fong tells the food tank, is to stop policymaking. “All issues related to health, nutrition, education, gender inequality (and more) are not sufficiently connected to environmental policymaking.”
The Global Alliance encourages cross-sector dialogue and system thinking. They also hope to see countries value the insights of various stakeholders, including indigenous peoples, farmers and women. They hope it will help countries design resilient climate strategies and avoid ineffective, silver-bullet solutions.
“For each country's policy makers, meaningful engagement with all groups participating in the food system is needed to ensure NDC consultation, development and implementation – including those that are often under-represented, such as indigenous peoples or women,” Fong said.
The Global Alliance plans to use a toolkit to help policymakers begin or deepen their work to integrate food system transformation into NDCs. And support those most affected by climate change. They are encouraging participants in the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow to submit a revised NDC before the next global meeting, COP27, to be held in Egypt in November 2022.
Fong explains to Food Tank that “the transformation of the food system offers such accessible victories with obvious co-benefits including health and sustainable livelihoods, there is no good reason not to follow this course. And there is no time to lose as the effects of climate change accelerate and the window closes for meaningful action. “
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