How do we feed the world’s growing population, and how do we do this whilst minimising environmental impacts such as deforestation? Today’s main topics at COP 21 are Forestry and Agriculture and delegates will no doubt be trying to find the right answer to both questions above, along with a myriad of other related issues.
Ecosystems and food production – a web of interconnections
Recognising and valuing our ecosystems, such as the forests around the globe and the ecosystems surrounding global food production, is of critical importance in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 2 in particular aspires to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”.
As ever, the answer isn’t a simple solution of just increasing food production, but instead a nuanced web of interconnections and grey areas. A technique Ramboll is adept at applying for our clients in the agricultural sector is ecosystem services – applying a scientific approach in a holistic way to enable appropriate and sustainable decision making to this critical sector.
SDG 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”, which is accompanied by the target to “by 2030 halve per capita food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses”.
If food waste was a country, it would be the 3rd largest CO2 emitter
If food waste was a country, then it would apparently be the third largest CO2 emitter in the world, which is a sobering thought. And as the planet’s population continues to increase, this places more pressures on global food supply. Reducing food waste is one element, along with traditional solutions for utilising it as a resource in itself – for instance in anaerobic digesters. Add to this the issue of sustainable pesticide use and the picture becomes even more complex.
The ultimate aim has to be to help supply chains become more circular and less linear and cut out the wasteful areas in the first place.The majority of food waste in terms of quantity is at the agricultural production stage, whereas the carbon footprint impact is largest at the consumption stage. Clearly we need to promote behavioural changes from both consumer and producer in order to meet the SDGs mentioned above.
The importance of urban trees
Valuing our ecosystems includes recognising the benefit that urban trees provide. Many of our cities in the UK are enhanced by the presence of Plane trees, planted by Victorian town planners in graceful avenues. It’s well known that trees in urban environments are beneficial in terms of urban cooling, let alone pollution, rainfall interception and habitat. With urban areas already hosting a significant majority of the world’s population, urban trees are an important element of meeting SDG 11, which aims to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.
COP 21 is a huge opportunity for firm international decision making and commitment to a more sustainable future. Let’s hope today’s talks aren’t wasted.
Where would you start in terms of meeting the SDGs?
We’d love to hear your ideas and solutions in the comments section below.