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 supplements WWFs bi-annual Living Planet Report, which finds that wildlife populations have experienced a 69 percent average decline since 1970. Latin America and the Caribbean have experienced the highest percentage reduction in biodiversity at 94 percent, followed by Africa at 66 percent and Asia-Pacific at 55 percent. The primary culprit of biodiversity loss is the conversion of natural habitat for food production, according to WWF.
“We can’t bend the curve on nature loss if we don’t transform food systems,” says Brent Loken, WWFs Global Food Lead Scientist. “Global targets exist, but implementation will take place at a national and sub-national level. Governments need to ensure national action plans on food are bold and ambitious, but they must also be integrated with existing nature and climate agreements. Our framework is designed to help governments decide where they should focus their efforts for most impact.”
Through a case study of 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 help reach global climate and biodiversity goals. Six variables were taken into consideration in identifying these food systems, including the type of production system, levels of carbon reserves, and the region’s level of biodiversity. The four countries were evaluated based on “their importance in combatting to meeting global climate and biodiversity goals,” according to the report. WWF emphasizes that food systems vary dramatically between countries, which calls for a holistic approach that is mindful of each country’s unique environment, economy, and society.
WWF identifies 20 transformation 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 smallholder farmers, improving land tenure rights, promoting traditional foods, developing nature-positive supply chains, and financing school food and public procurement programs.
Food-based emissions account for approximately 30 percent of global emissions and the top three food-based contributors are livestock and fisheries, crops for human food, and the supply chain. WWF reports that a food systems approach is necessary to address biodiversity loss and limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Transitioning to plant-rich diets has the greatest impact potential and could reduce global emissions by 48 percent, according to the report. And 80 percent of 2030 mitigation opportunity is tightly linked to food systems, according to Conservation International. Due to the global nature of food systems, a global and multi-pronged approach is needed to mitigate the widespread the impacts of food production and consumption.
“A full range of stakeholders will be required to implement national level food systems transformation – including scientists, policymakers, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and individuals,” according to the WWF report. “Explicitly, smallholder farmers, women, youth, indigenous people, local communities and other historically-marginalized and vulnerable people need to be involved in any food systems transformation.”
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Photo courtesy of Gabriel Jimenez, Unsplash