Reducing Food Waste Adds Up Big in Tackling Emissions

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tons — gets lost or wasted. This contributes to 8% of total greenhouse emissions and also occurs as 1 in 9 people around the world are undernourished. Now, a new report from the World Resources Institute (WRI) called Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Setting a Global Action Agenda has identified a three-pronged approach to halve food loss and waste by 2030.

The Details: The report calls on governments, companies, farmers, consumers, and everyone in between to:
  1. “Target-Measure-Act”: Set food loss and waste reduction targets, measure to identify hotspots of food loss and waste and monitor progress over time, and take action on the hotspots;
  2. pursue a short “to-do” list per player in the food supply chain as “no regret” first steps toward taking action; and
  3. collaborate on 10 “scaling interventions” to ramp up deployment of Target-Measure-Act and the to-do list.

The Benefits: As WRI explained, successfully halving food loss and waste would close the gap between food needed in 2050 and food available in 2010 by more than 20%. It would avoid the need to convert an area the size of Argentina into agricultural land as well as lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 gigatons per year by 2050, an amount more than the current energy- and industry- related emissions of Japan.

Why This Matters: Yale Climate Connections reported that a study by Project Drawdown, a coalition of experts focused on climate change solutions, ranked reducing food waste as the No. 3 action item out of 80 of most the most impactful ways to reduce emissions. We need to rethink our food system to ensure that we’re growing the right amount of food as well as finding ways to reduce the emissions resulting from the transportation, refrigeration, and sale of food from producer to retailer to consumer. All in all, it’s pretty low-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.




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