Cut Food Waste To Cut Emissions, Study Finds

global-food-wasteCutting the amount of food that is wasted and the way people consume calories will reduce carbon emissions and help deliver a sustainable food system, according to a recent study.

The study, published in journal Environmental Science & Technology, suggests that cutting food waste will help food security and reduce agriculture’s climate burden, which according to one of the key authors is playing an increasingly important role when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions.

The study found that about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture could be traced back to food waste by 2050. It examined past datasets and used future scenarios to identify pathways that could deliver improvements in food security and CO2 emissions.

“Avoiding food loss could pose a leverage to various challenges at once, reducing environmental impacts of agriculture, saving resources used in food production, and enhance local, regional, and global food security”

It found that the global food requirement has changed from 2,300 calories per person each day to 2,400 calories per person each day during the past 50 years, while the food surplus grew from 310 calories per person each day to 510.

Over the same period, greenhouse gas emissions associated with food surplus increased from 130m tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year to 530mi tonnes – an increase of more than 300%.

Future scenarios calculated that emissions associated with the food wasted may “increase tremendously” to up to 2.5 giga-tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year.

Prof Jurgen Kropp from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany, one of the study’s co-authors told BBC News: “As many emerging economies like China or India are projected to rapidly increase their food waste as a consequence of changing lifestyle, increasing welfare and dietary habits towards a larger share of animal-based products, this could over proportionally increase greenhouse-gas emissions associated with food waste [while] undermining efforts for an ambitious climate protection.

“Avoiding food loss could pose a leverage to various challenges at once, reducing environmental impacts of agriculture, saving resources used in food production, and enhance local, regional, and global food security.”

Sustainable Development Goals

Last year the United Nations (UN) announced the inclusion of goals for sustainable waste management in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, including goal 12.3, which aims to halve global food waste at the retail and consumer level, and reducing food losses along production and supply chains.

To help achieve this, 30 CEOs, government ministers, global institution executives, and civil society leaders have come together to form Champions 12.3. Its aim is to increase political and social momentum to achieve this 2030 target.

The Champions 12.3 coalition will work to create political, business and social momentum to reduce food loss and waste around the world and will inspire action by leading by example, motivating others to reduce food waste and communicating the importance of food loss and waste reduction.

In March this year, WRAP unveiled Courtauld Commitment 2025, a commitment that brings together UK organisations from across the food system for the first time to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable for the future.

The commitment goes further than ever before with three ambitious targets:

  • A 20% reduction in food and drink waste arising in the UK
  • A 20% reduction in greenhouse gas intensity of food & drink consumed in the UK
  • A reduction in impact associated with water use in the supply chain
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