The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a new science-based platform and report, Solving the Great Food Puzzle, which provides a framework to transform food production, consumption, loss and waste on a global scale.
The report complements WWF’s biannual Living Planet Report, which finds that wildlife populations have declined an average of 69 percent since 1970. Latin America and the Caribbean has experienced the highest percentage decline in biodiversity at 94 percent, followed by Africa at 66 percent and Asia Pacific at 55 percent. According to the WWF, the main reason for the loss of biodiversity is the conversion of natural habitats for food production.
“We cannot bend the wildlife loss curve unless we change food systems,” says Brent Loken, WWF Global Food Lead Scientist. “There are global goals, but implementation takes place at national and sub-national levels. Governments need to ensure that national food action plans are bold and ambitious, but they also need to be integrated into existing nature and climate agreements. Our framework is designed to help governments decide where to focus their efforts to have the greatest impact.”
Using a case study from four countries, Brazil, Colombia, Kenya and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Great Food Puzzle report identifies three types of food systems based on their potential to contribute to global climate and biodiversity goals. Six variables were considered in identifying these food systems, including the type of production system, the level of carbon reserves, and the biodiversity of the region. The four countries were ranked based on “their importance in tackling global climate and biodiversity goals,” according to the report. WWF emphasizes that food systems differ dramatically between countries, requiring a holistic approach that takes into account each country’s unique environment, economy and society.
The WWF identifies 20 transformational levers for change. These are divided into six different categories: natural resource management, governance and institutions, education and knowledge, technology, trade and finance. Specific recommendations include optimizing land use, increasing carbon storage and diversity, supporting small farmers, improving land tenure rights, promoting traditional foods, developing nature-friendly supply chains, and funding school meals and public procurement programs.
Food-based emissions account for approximately 30 percent of global emissions, and the top three food emitters are livestock and fisheries, human food crops, and the supply chain. WWF reports that a food systems approach is needed to address biodiversity loss and limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. The transition to a plant-rich diet has the biggest potential impact and could reduce global emissions by 48 percent, according to the report. And 80 percent of mitigation opportunities for 2030 are closely linked to food systems, according to Conservation International. Due to the global nature of food systems, a global and multi-pronged approach is required to mitigate the far-reaching impacts of food production and consumption.
“Implementing food systems transformation at the national level will require a range of stakeholders – including academics, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and individuals,” according to the WWF report. “Explicitly, small farmers, women, youth, indigenous peoples, local communities and other historically marginalized and vulnerable people must be included in any food systems transformation.”
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Photo courtesy of Gabriel Jimenez, Unsplash