World leaders are gathered in Paris to chart a course for a cooler planet. WWF is urging governments, businesses, and communitites to make commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize our climate.
Energy production is the largest source of these emissions, but agriculture contributes a significant share—about 24%, according to the World Resources Institute. Clearly, improving the way we produce food is critical in the fight against climate change.
By 2050, the global population will grow to 9.7 billion and demand for food will double. In addition to setting aggressive commitments around energy, world leaders in Paris and beyond must take steps to make our food system more sustainable.
Protect forests, grasslands and other native landscapes
Trees, grasses, and other plants that make up native landscapes keep carbon in the ground and out of the atmosphere where it drives climate change. Governments must protect forests, grasslands, and other wild habitats from being converted to cropland or pasture. That way, they can slow climate change and also protect thousands of species that call these landscapes home.
Promote healthy soil
Soil is not just dirt; it’s an ecosystem teeming with life that’s critical to crop production. It’s also a good tool to curb climate change; plants absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the soil. Healthy soil can also boost productivity, reduce chemical use, improve water quality and conservation, and build resilience. Governments and businesses alike should encourage and support farmers who adopt good soil practices.
Use water more efficiently and curb pollution
Longer and more severe droughts are already stressing food production. At the same time, the overuse of fertilizers and other chemicals contaminates rivers, coasts, and oceans. Managing water and waste can help farmers withstand volatile weather and keep our waterways clean.
Climate change and carbon emissions are warming and acidifying the oceans, which endangers our ability to rely on seafood as a source of protein for billions of people. Overfishing puts additional strain on already stressed marine life. Cutting carbon emissions and managing fisheries can protect oceans and the diverse life they support.
We should consider the impacts of the food we eat. Meat, for example, requires more water, land, and energy than fruits and vegetables. Production practices matter, too, and consumers should demand more sustainably produced foods from retailers and brands.
Reduce food waste
Today, we waste up to 40% of all food produced globally. In developing countries, this is usually a result of weak road or rail systems and lack of storage. In the developed world, waste tends to occur when unused and uneaten food is thrown away in stores and kitchens. By improving production and distribution techniques, and by educating consumers and changing retail practices, we can help ensure that less food—and the land, water and energy used to produce it—goes to waste.
We have a long road ahead of us to create a sustainable future, and it will require every one of us to act.
WWF is ready. With millions of members in more than 100 countries around the world, we are working with small farmers and large brands, national retailers and global traders, municipal governments and multilateral institutions, and scientists and consumers—among many others—to bring our food production system in harmony with nature. It’s a monumental challenge, but together we can solve it.