The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) has called for fundamental reform of food systems to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming.

The group was reacting to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report – Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change – which was published yesterday (Monday, April 4).

The scientific report noted that there is increasing evidence of climate action but said immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors are needed to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

IPCC stated that limiting warming to around 2°C still requires global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest, and then be reduced by a quarter by 2030.

Agriculture, forestry and other land use can provide large-scale emissions reductions and also remove and store carbon dioxide at scale, according to the report, but this will require a significant increase in investment.

IPCC said that average annual GHG emissions reached their highest levels between 2010-2019, however the rate of growth has slowed.

IPES reaction

Commenting on the IPCC report, Hans Herren, member of IPES-Food and president of the Millennium Institute, and Right Livelihood Award (2013) Laureate, said:

“Scientists and governments agree, we are barrelling towards catastrophic levels of global heating – and our industrial food system is a major culprit.

“Without a rapid transformation toward sustainable and resilient food systems, it will be impossible to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C and prevent mass crop failures – entailing horrific consequences for marginalised people who did not cause this crisis.

“Yet right now, almost no government has plans in their national climate strategies to transform food systems – giving one of the world’s destructive industries a free pass,” Herren stated.

Emile Frison, member of IPES-Food and former director general of Bioversity International, said that upcoming international biodiversity and climate negotiations are key opportunities to tackle the GHGs and pollution coming from industrial farming.

“Unlike for other polluting industries, sustainable solutions are readily available for food systems – such as reducing food waste, promoting agroforestry, and introducing sustainable diets – all while mitigating emissions, and delivering multiple benefits for food security, livelihoods and biodiversity.

“Governments must massively get behind and multiply the efforts of farmers and regional governments who are adopting agroecological practices – shifting towards diversified farms which work with nature.

“But using land only to sequester carbon could risk displacing people and undermining food security, with dubious benefits,” Frison said.