A series of nine policy briefs have been prepared as part of the scientific preparations for the Planet Under Pressure conference, now in its second day of deliberations (26–29 Mar 2012) in London. The briefs specifically target policymakers in the Rio+20 Earth Summit process, aiming to give them access to the latest scientific thinking on sustainable development issues. Each brief tackles an issue of importance to the Rio+20 conference, with a focus on the ‘green economy’ and the ‘institutional framework for sustainable development’.
Rio+20 policy briefs
The Rio+20 policy briefs are on the following topics: Water security | Food security | Biodiversity and ecosystems | Transforming governance and institutions | Interconnected risks and challenges | Energy security | Health | Well-being | Green economy. To download the briefs, visit the Planet Under Pressure website.
Food security policy brief
Two of the seven authors of the Food Security policy brief (full title is ‘Rio+20 Policy Brief #2, Food Security for a Planet Under Pressure: Transition to sustainability—interconnected challenges and solutions’) are Pramod Aggarwal, of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Polly Ericksen, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). A 2011 study by Ericksen commissioned and published by CCAFS, Mapping Hotspots of Climate Change and Food Insecurity in the Global Tropics (CCCAFS Report no. 5) is one of eight studies used to compile this PUP Food Security policy brief.
The other authors of this new Food Security policy brief come from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (John Ingram), East Malling Research (Peter Gregory), the United Nations Development Programme (Leo Horn-Phathanothai), South Africa’s University of KwaZulu-Natal (Alison Misselhorn) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (Keith Wiebe).
Food security, say authors of the brief, is met when ‘all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life’ (FAO, 2002).
‘Despite a marked increase in global food production over the past half century, around one billion people do not have enough to eat, and a further billion lack adequate nutrition. Continuing population growth over the next 50 years, coupled with increasing consumption by a wealthier population, is likely to raise global food demand still higher. Meeting this demand will be complicated by changes in environmental factors (collectively termed ‘global environmental change’, GEC), including climate, biodiversity, water availability, land use, tropospheric ozone and other pollutants, and sea-level rise. These changes are themselves caused partly by food system activities (e.g., excessive use of nitrogen fertilizers leading to eutrophication of freshwater and coastal systems, greenhouse gas emissions, and loss of “wild-land” biodiversity leading to reduced ecosystem services such as pollination, biological control, etc.). The effects of these food system “feedbacks” on the environment are exacerbated by GEC interacting with competition for resources from such changing land uses as production of feedstocks for biofuels. . . .
‘While there is scope to increase global food production, future approaches and technologies must be based on sustainable approaches to intensification, with the public goods provided by natural ecosystems (e.g., water and carbon storage) taken into account wherever possible. The complex interactions within and between the food system, natural resources and socioeconomic factors mean that close coordination among multiple sectors is vital. Stronger links must be forged between sectors relating to agriculture, fisheries, environment, trade, energy, transportation, marketing, health and consumer goods. In taking forward action agreed internationally, including through the G20 Action Plan, countries should adopt a sustainable and integrated approach to promoting improvements in productivity. This implies adopting a particular research focus on key crops, including those most relevant for vulnerable countries and populations.
‘A more joined-up approach should involve integrated analyses of food, climate, environment, population and socio-economic systems. The results will guide cross-sectoral decision making and the integrated responses needed to address food security and support sustainable and resilient livelihoods for future generations.’
Changing consumption patterns
‘As people in the rapidly developing nations (e.g., China) become wealthier, they increase demand for processed food, meat, fish and dairy products. Such food often has a larger environmental ‘footprint’ than less processed food, and the larger volumes demanded by more affluent people cause even greater environmental impacts. The changing nature of demand offers both opportunities and threats to farmers, with those having better access to information, resources and markets set to benefit most. Multinational food retailers are becoming more powerful in negotiating prices with farmers and other suppliers. For the rural poor, the key challenge is to match supply and demand across the seasons, which calls for improvements in post-harvest handling, storage and distribution as well as better access to insurance and credit.’
Read more about the Planet Under Pressure conference on the ILRI News Blog
Planet under pressure / Livestock under the radar, 26 Mar 2012.
Planet under pressure / A numbers game–but which numbers are the numbers that matter?, 26 Mar 2012.