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Food waste, a blind spot in global warming | COP28: climate summit in Geneva  Dubaï

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Food wasted around the world represents more than 8% of GHG emissions.

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While 134 countries present at Dubai for COP28, including Canada, have committed to including agriculture and food in their climate plans by 2025, the country is lagging behind in terms of food waste, according to several specialists while&#x27 ;yet it is an important source of greenhouse gases.

A total of 1.17 billion tonnes of food are wasted globally each year, while 735 million people suffered from malnutrition in 2022, the World Food Program found.

A third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted and contributes 8 to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions that impact the climate, says Doug O'Brien, vice-president of programs at the Global FoodBanking Network, a nonprofit organization that seeks community solutions to fight hunger.

Food waste comes from many sources, including agriculture, the retail sector and households. As uneaten food degrades, it releases large quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much more powerful in warming than carbon dioxide. Fortunately, it degrades more quickly than CO2 because it retains 70 times more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide.

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A farm worker dumps food waste in Langley, British Columbia. (Archive photo)

COP28: climate summit in Dubai

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Emissions from global food loss and waste are so large that if these emissions were represented by one country, it would be third behind China and the United States, according to the Program of the United Nations for the environment.

In Canada, it's even worse. In a report titled The Preventable Food Waste Crisis, released in 2019, food rescue charity Second Harvest found that 58% of all food produced is lost or wasted in Canada each year. This represents 35 million tonnes of food, a third of which could be recovered, according to this organization.

Food is wasted throughout the supply chain. x27;supply, emphasizes Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest.

In the past, people thought it was all about household waste. Yes, there is household waste, but when you look at where the waste occurs, it's further up the supply chain.

A quote from Lori Nikkel, CEO of Second Harvest

In 2019, the Trudeau government presented its food policy for Canada, which aims in particular to halve food waste in businesses and at home by 2030, as well as in the agricultural sector.

Not enough to reassure the director of Second Harvest. The whole system is broken, deplores Ms. Nikkel before emphasizing that the government does not carry out detailed measurement of the extent of this phenomenon. It's scandalous, she says.

Kate Parizeau, associate professor in the department of geography, environment and geomatics at the University of Guelph, agrees. If you have no or too little data, how can you act? she asks herself.

In developing countries, one of the problems is that the infrastructure necessary to prevent food loss does not always exist, but in Canada, one of the causes of food waste is overproduction, according to the CEO of Second Harvest .

Lori Nikkel thus points out the milk quota system which aims to maintain high incomes for producers but which in return creates huge surpluses. A large part of the fruits and vegetables are also lost in the fields, because they do not meet the aesthetic criteria expected by supermarkets, she notes.

It is in an attempt to remedy this waste that more than 130 countries adopted in Dubai the Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Systems resilient food and climate action.

This declaration marks the first time in the history of UN climate negotiations that countries have clearly committed to taking action on the global food system.

A quote from Lisa Moon, President and CEO of the Global FoodBanking Network

According to her, this is a major development that should prompt greater attention and more decisive action in for the transformation of the food system over the coming years. This involves reducing food waste not only at the source but also along the supply chain.

Through more sustainable policies With strict policies and other incentives, food banks can significantly increase the amount of food collected, helping to feed more people and reduce waste and GHG emissions, concludes Ms. Moon.

Based on an article by Nicole Mortillaro, CBC

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