Paris-compliant healthy food systems workshop report published

Paris-compliant healthy food systems

With the global food system as a whole currently responsible for around 30% of total anthropogenic greenhouse-gas emissions, the agri-food sector must adapt if we are to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement. This report details discussions at an interdisciplinary workshop considering what a Paris-compliant healthy food system might look like in practice, and mechanisms by which this kind of food system might be realised.

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Paris-compliant healthy food systems workshop

An interdisciplinary and cross-sector delegation explored what a food system that better supports health while also being compliant with the Paris Agreement might look like in practice, and mechanisms by which this kind of food system might be realised.

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Key findings

  • There is scope for GHG emissions reductions to be further targeted in food production, but there must be greater dialogue with producers and manufacturers to better understand how knowledge can be combined and practically implemented
  • Change to the demand side of the food system will be necessary, but the required level of change and most effective mechanisms of change need further clarification
  • Mainstreaming messaging on the connection between food and climate change has significant scope to support food system change
  • Areas for further research include:
    • Robust metrics and targets to quantify required change
    • Mechanisms to support social change
    • Understanding how to produce food in a climate that is at least 1.5 degrees warmer
    • Possible win-win scenarios for producers and food business in a high quality low quantity market
    • Approaches for food policy that integrate all food system drivers as well as health and climate change
    • Economic costs to UK of action and inaction

Scientific rationale

Entering into force on 4 November 2016, the Paris agreement saw all 197 parties to the UNFCCC pledge to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to “well below” 2°C and to “pursue efforts” towards 1.5°C (ref 1).

With the global food system as a whole currently responsible for around 30% of total anthropogenic greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions (ref 2), it is clear that the agri-food sector must adapt in order to support the Paris agreement – especially given projections that food-related emissions at current levels could account for the entire carbon budget for a 2°C temperature rise by 2050 (ref 3). At the same time there is still a need to achieve global food security, supplying sufficient nutritious, safe and equitable food to meet the demands of the growing global population. The unification of thinking around sustainability and health presents an opportunity to find food system solutions that address both challenges simultaneously – encompassed by the ideal of a Paris-compliant healthy food system.

However, it is currently unclear what a Paris-compliant healthy food system would look like in practice. There is certainly need for systemic change, but more work needs to be done to understand what mixture of pre and post farm-gate areas will be the most viable and effective targets for intervention.

References

  1. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: The Paris Agreement.
  2. Designing Climate Change Mitigation Plans That Add Up (Environ. Sci. Technol., Volume 47, No. 14, p8062–8069, 2013).
  3. Changing Climate, Changing Diets: Pathways to Lower Meat Consumption (Chatham House, 2015).