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Climate suffers as world wastes over 1 billion meals a day

By Otiato Opali in Nairobi, Kenya | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2024-03-28 21:04

A pallet of rescued vegetables is seen at a share house in Johannesburg on February 15, 2021. [Photo/CFP]

Food waste across the globe continues to fuel climate change, nature loss and pollution while hurting the global economy, a report by the United Nations has revealed. The UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2024 which was launched on Wednesday said that it is important for countries to connect the fight against hunger and the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.

The report whose findings revealed that the toll of food loss on the global economy is estimated at roughly $1 trillion, reiterated that reducing food waste is an opportunity to reduce costs and tackle some of the biggest environmental and social issues of our time and that is fighting climate change and addressing food insecurity.

While giving opening remarks at the online webinar that launched the report, Dechen Tsering, acting director of the climate change division at the UNEP said that policy instruments such as tax rebates, waste collection fees and subsidies, could be used to incentivize changes in business practice and consumer behavior. In addition, better data on the cost of food waste and the environmental, economic, and social benefits of limiting food waste could help sway investors and consumers.

“We now know that if we stop wasting so much food, we can save precious cropland, valuable water resources, and make progress in mitigating climate change. More and more governments and businesses are finding ways to do their part through policy and efficient management but we can all make a difference through our everyday actions to save food at home,” Tsering said.

Inger Andersen, executive director of UNEP said that unnecessary waste is causing substantial costs to the climate and nature in addition to being a major development issue.

“The good news is we know if countries prioritize this issue, they can significantly reverse food loss and waste, reduce climate impacts and economic losses, and accelerate progress on global goals,” Andersen said.

In her remarks, Thembelihle Ndukwana from the department of trade and industry in South Africa noted that water scarcity, land degradation and escalating food waste are some of the major environmental problems of our time.

“Organic waste is a major component in any landfill and all efforts to divert this waste through ensuring better use of food products is a significant contribution to our joint efforts to promote resource efficiency,” Ndukwana said.

She gave an example of her country South Africa where manufacturers and retailers are being actively recruited to partner with the government in ensuring that food waste is reduced with the aim to eliminate food waste in the near future while protecting the environment.

“This is one of the efforts by South Africa to transition to sustainable consumption and production and achieve healthy sustainable food systems,” Ndukwana said.

According to the report, as of 2022, only 21 countries had included food loss and waste reduction in their national climate plans including China, Namibia, Sierra Leone, Cabo Verde and the United Arab Emirates.

“Countries should use the Food Waste Index to measure food waste consistently, develop robust national baselines, and track progress. Very few countries have collected robust food waste data, which is essential in understanding the scale of the problem, in targeting hotspots, and in assessing the efficacy of interventions,” the report stated.

It called for Public-Private Partnerships between governments, regional and industry groups to reduce food waste and its impact on the climate, environment and water stress.

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