Humanity’s chance of achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within the next decade will be largely determined by critical decisions over the next 12 months. What we eat and how our food is produced needs to be at the centre of global action. Last week, at the Pre-Summit of the United Nations Food Systems Summit, climate change, biodiversity loss, healthy diets, and livelihoods were discussed alongside food security. But there are many other high-level conferences in the coming year – and if concrete actions are not integrated across them, we run the real risk of missing the SDGs.
Why consumption and diets?
Food systems are the largest cause of environmental degradation and human health problems. Food production uses about 40% of land and 70% of freshwater withdrawals, is the main driver of biodiversity loss, is responsible for about 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, and is the main risk for morbidity and mortality. These facts are well documented in scientific literature, yet other than in the UN Food Systems Summit, food is not a priority discussion item or negotiation topic at major summits. Furthermore, discussions that do take place tend to focus on changing food production. But we can’t rely on nature-positive production alone – to feed a growing population within planetary boundaries we also need to reduce food loss and waste and transform our diets. Changing what we eat plays a major role in achieving SDGs and has been identified as the single biggest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions of our food systems.
Connecting the dots
Many passionate and dedicated stakeholders are already making inspiring efforts to elevate the consumption and diets agenda. But many of these efforts are siloed, meaning coordination across key health and environmental summits is not taking place. To achieve impact, we must start connecting the dots between stakeholders, actions, and summits. Consumption and diets need to be integrated in the new Global Biodiversity Framework and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. There is still time to act.
To start connecting the dots, WWF launched the Global Action Platform on Sustainable Consumption and Diets. This platform convenes key stakeholders who are working on food systems transformation to build a coalition committed to maximizing collective impact during the Super Year of Food. Only by connecting agendas on biodiversity, climate and health, and other key issues, can we actually achieve our global goals. Over the course of the next several months, the Action Platform will discuss strategies and coordinate action before and during the key summits ahead.
There are many key issues that demand collective action. For instance, shifting diets to bend the curve on biodiversity loss. Transitioning to lower-impact foods can help halt habitat conversion and degradation, but adopting more diverse and nature-positive diets can also help nature regenerate, as agroecological practices like intercropping support the increase of biodiversity in food production systems. Likewise, we need to explore the critical link between what we eat and achieving a 1.5℃ future, including the need to update Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement to prioritise these shifts.
The need for urgent action
We must act now. Delaying or postponing action on food will have dire consequences for our future. We have to break the silos and elevate the importance of diets and consumption, integrating agendas at major events, including:
- UNCBD COP 15
- UN Food Systems Summit
- UNFCCC COP 26
- UN Oceans Conference
- The Committee on World Food Security – CFS49
- Nutrition for Growth Summit
- UNCCD COP 15
- Stockholm +50
As discussed in the UNFSS Pre-Summit, we need systemic change. If we focus only on food production, and ignore diets and consumption, we will miss the chance to truly transform food systems. Likewise, tackling biodiversity, climate, food security, and health in isolation will not be successful – and if we fail to act on food, we will singularly preclude our chances of achieving other goals.
But to achieve these goals, we need to change the way we talk about food. People all over the world need to be inspired to take action, realizing that the power is on their plates. Food systems are not conceptual structures that we can’t influence; we’re all part of them and we can all influence how they impact climate, nature and people, through our own food choices.
We’re thrilled that FoodTank will be part of the Global Action Platform on Sustainable Consumption and Diets. Together, we can help spread this message and drive action in the months ahead.
If there was ever a time for us to come together to drive action, it’s now, during the Super Year of Food. Join us, and let’s start connecting the dots together and laying the foundation for a Super Decade of Food.
For more information please visit: www.panda.org/discover/our_focus/food_practice/sustainable_diets/global_action_platform_sustainable_consumption_diets