Greenhouse gas emissions

As the team leader of the Global Perspectives Studies from FAO, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Lorenzo Bellù studies the impact of agriculture in our daily lives. Is humanity threatened by mass food production techniques? Should we all go organic? I talked to him and brought you answers to these and other questions.

Photo: UNDP

Regarding the Zero Hunger goal, how can we overcome the challenge to produce healthy food for all?

I understand healthy food as safe food, which means is not poisonous or damaging, and then containing sufficiently nutrients, vitamins and proteins. On the other side, it is a healthy combination of healthy food. You can use healthy food and have an unhealthy diet. I’m saying that in terms of abuse of animal proteins, for example. Food may be healthy but the way you use it or abuse it can be unhealthy.

That being said, how to produce healthy food for an ever-growing global population?

There is a debate about whether farmers should use organic versus conventional techniques. I’m not against organic, but a key question is whether producing organic food is something that can actually feed the planet now and in the future. This question is an issue that still needs to be researched. Having said that, this doesn’t mean conventional agriculture doesn’t require investigation. In general, we need to identify sustainable ways of producing to achieve the SDGs, but we don’t have the answers. Moving food along the sustainable pattern require investigation, investment, commitment.

Are technology and social innovation helping with providing solutions to the increasing global demand for food?

We are going to face several challenges, one of them is in front of us, how to produce more food with fewer resources – water, land and greenhouse gas emissions. Technology may help us to use less water or using it in a more efficient way, it is something that may evolve a lot. But this requires knowing the moment when crops need water and the quantity. So technology can help with finding ways of dealing with antimicrobial resistance. The use and abuse of chemicals, medicaments, antibiotics to deal with animals and plants diseases cause resistance. Technology can discover new remedies ant the better use of the current ones.

Conventional agriculture has shown limitation in terms of excess withdrawal of water, fertility of soils, what has been useful so far to feed global expanding population now cannot be on the future, we are facing deflation of biodiversity. We must change the way of doing and producing things by spreading existing knowledge, investing more in research and development, infrastructure, know-how and expertise of people. We don’t have preconceived solutions. To move around these ways you need political commitment, private investment and the participation of all actors.

What is the role of consumers and their personal choices in order to push for a more sustainable agriculture?

I believe that the role of consumers is crucial now and it’s going to be crucial in the future. First of all, the consumer can decide to move personal diets into more healthy food. In developed countries, for example, where there is an excess of animal products consumption, we can move to more sustainable diets, because animal processing is very intense on gas emissions. (By eating too many animal products), I am not going to help myself and other people and I put pressure on the market, contributing to raising prices. Consumers are sovereign, what they decide can influence production and is going to be crucial to go on the sustainable path.

Many experts and influencers advocate for organic, regional, seasonal food. Is it part of the solution to make agriculture more sustainable?

It’s important to rely on trustworthy information and not ‘fake news’ sources concerning food. On internet you find everything, consumers have to be informed but not trapped getting wrong signals. Not all the websites are the same. But I believe consumers who want to privilege organic food may have their right to do that. I believe the awareness is a key factor also in pushing production techniques. I’m not saying that local food intended as self-sufficiency of small, regional areas is necessarily more sustainable than traditional. To some extent, exchange of food across different zones may help increase sustainability, so you are not forced to produce some kinds of food. If you live in a zone where water and land are under stress, there is no need to produce that to fulfill needs. So it doesn’t exist simple solutions to complex problems. But consumers who want strawberries in winter time need to know it’s not advisable. If they want cherries in December in Europe and they’re coming from Australia, it’s not environmentally sound. You can consume other things. We need to be wiser about what the implications are.

What should we be aware of working conditions and other social impacts of agriculture?

When we eat food at cheaper prices, we don’t count externalities like footprints as transport cost and pollution. We don’t fully internalize the costs of gas emissions. The food is cheap, I consume it, but environmentally and socially it may not be cheap. Prices are signals the consumer receive, but the cost of polluting water sources may not be reflected in these prices. Food may come at cheaper prices because people work with indecent wages and conditions. In some parts of the world, labor conditions are not acceptable, that’s why FAO push member countries do adopt legislation to impose decent working conditions. FAO avocates for responsible investment in agriculture, respect for the environment, local values, right to food, access to resources to small holders. It may imply higher costs, but the consumers have to be aware of what they consume and if it comes from countries which actually respect these conditions. If we move in that direction we may be close to achieve the SDGs.

Horyou is a strong supporter of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This article highlights challenges and solutions for SDG12 – Responsible consumption and production.

Eurostat launched a report showing the progression of the European Union towards the 2020 social and economic targets.

The report highlights the main achievements of  EU 2020 targets
The report highlights the main achievements of EU 2020 targets

2020 is only three years from now and, surely, a lot has been already accomplished. Still there’s so much left to do in such short time. One major point raised by Eurostat is that he European Union lacks cohesion between its member States when it has to deliver better levels of employment and productivity while reducing the impact on the environment.

Europe 2020 targets cover five areas of concern: Employment, Research & Development, Climate Change & Energy, Education and Poverty Reduction. Each member state has its own national target within the common targets. By analyzing the data, Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU, produced a report called “Smarter, greener, more inclusive?”, in which it details the Unions accomplishments since 2008, as well as it outlines the programs major trends.

The report thus highlights the “substantial progress” made in the area of climate change and energy, through the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption, combined with an increase in the use of renewable sources of energy. Positive developments have been made also in education, through an increased tertiary education and a reduced number of early leavers from higher education.

The areas where progress was limited were employment and R&D expenditure, while poverty reduction has reached poor results since 2008.

When analyzing each EU Member State data, Eurostat shows there’s still a lack of cohesion among the 27 countries. When it comes to reducing greenhouse gases emissions, for example, States as Portugal and Denmark have surpassed their targets on energy consumption and efficiency when France and Italy are still far from honoring their commitments and are hardly likely to do so by 2020.

From the poverty reduction perspective, only a few countries, like Austria and Bulgaria, have shown a slight development, while Spain and Greece are struggling to reach the 2020 targets. Currently, 23% of the EU population faces the risk of poverty or social exclusion, while employment rates among females have risen since 2008, inducing a vulnerability of this gender group.

Access the full report here

All 2020 targets are directly or indirectly related to the UN Sustainable Development Targets and are part of the EU commitment to the social and economic inclusion of its population.

Horyou is the Social Network for Social Good, which connects, supports and promotes social initiatives, entrepreneurs, and citizens who help the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals to build a more harmonious and inclusive world. We invite you to Be the Change, Be Horyou!

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary

The Conference of the Parties – COP – is getting more exposure by the year as the effects of man-induced climate change is becoming ever more evident. The Paris agreement last year, endorsed by all parties, was a clear call to all governments involved to quick action; COP 22, held this November in Marrakech, on the African continent, highlighted the parties’ commitment to the urgency of appropriate solutions and implementation of effective policies. In an international press conference, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised the High-Level plenaries’ work and expectations, as well as the resulting resolutions to act now to reduce the effects of global warming.

“Climate change is a reality; emissions continue to increase and time is running against us”, he urged. Recalling that 2015 was the hottest year ever registered in history, he warned that 2016 will probably be even hotter, based on the signs that can be seen in the Antarctic and Artic continents. “No country, no matter how powerful, is immune to climate change”, he added.

The UN Secretary General however expressed his strong belief that the international community can move forward in time, and that the discussions in Marrakesh, after the Paris agreement that came into force in a record time are a good indication of that hopeful outcome: “A global meeting around the climate that was once unthinkable is now unstoppable”.

Asked about the US President elect declarations questioning the Paris Agreements and his intention to repeal them, Mr Ban Ki-Moon said that the international community, including American corporations, states and cities, have understood the severity of the effects of climate change and are moving forward putting emissions reductions policies into place, no matter what. He believes that low carbon economy is the policy of the future, and relies on the US President elect reputation for being a talented businessman to understand the urge to invest in smart climate projects as profitable ventures. “There are market forces that are already acting. And there is no plan B”, he declared adamantly.

The UN Secretary General was confident and optimistic about the outcomes of COP22 – and mentioned the Kingdom of Morocco as a committed country to put policies into force, as well as a key player and one of the main investors in Africa in renewable energies. As for the message that he addressed to the global community, he vowed that leaders have moral and political responsibility and show that they are all united.

Written by Vivian Soares

More Stories

Una referencia en arte urbano en Barcelona, Nau Bostik tiene una historia que remite al pasado industrial de la ciudad – la nave abandonada...