THE BLOG

How Relevant Is Food Waste in the Climate Change Debate?

03/12/2015 15:55 GMT | Updated 02/12/2016 10:12 GMT

As many leaders from around the world meet in Paris to discuss world climate change this week, will food waste get onto the agenda or will it remain the 'big elephant in the room' as usual?!

Today, approximately 1/3 of all food produced on our planet is wasted - either in transit (from field to consumer) or thrown by consumers buying too much and discarding the excess.

In total that's 1.3 billion tonnes of food being wasted each year representing 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emitted from its production (growing, harvesting, transporting, and packaging). And just to put 3.3bn metric tons of CO2 in perspective; if food-waste were a country, it would be the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China.

Therefore, as we explore ways of controlling global warming, and whilst food waste accounts for such a great portion of our CO2 emissions, is it not a logical step to address reducing our food waste footprint more closely?

To better manage what we already have rather than looking for solutions elsewhere?

Eradicating un-necessary food waste would not only impact carbon emissions, it would have other benefits and knock on effects including world hunger, political stability and preservation of our natural resources.

Deforestation is a large concerns when addressing global warming.

Forests play a critical role in regulating our climate and are the second largest store of carbon (after the oceans). But when cleared and burnt - predominantly to grow crops - our forests turn from a carbon store to carbon-dioxide in our atmosphere.

Large-scale deforestation can be prevented through better, smarter agriculture . While we waste 1/3 of food, we are required to grow 1.3 times as much as we need to feed the planet, all of which demands farmland, and thus putting forests at risk.

Therefore the way we produce and consume food needs to change for the sustainability of our resources and future food supply. Currently we produce enough food to feed everyone on our planet today and the 2.5 billion more people to come in the next 35 years. Yet by the way its currently managed, one would never know. We have to waste less and feed more.

In my opinion, in developed countries, a big part of this is the need for us to change our attitude towards food - to see it as a precious, natural resource that needs to be enjoyed and treasured. We need to re-address use-by dates, as well as planning and caring for what we have in homes, retail and restaurants better. For developing countries, it involves looking at infrastructure to improve storage, transportation and communication around supply and demand / availability of markets.

We each have a responsibility to ourselves to start consuming responsibly and value what we have on our plate.

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