COP20 Day Five – We are all actors of change

written by Alessia Valentini

It’s day  five at the UNFCCC’s COP20 in Lima, Peru, and agriculture was being discussed at the Sustainable production and consumption joint side event, where the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was one of the key speakers.

The UN reports that one third of food for human consumption is wasted each year, due to trends in consumption and production. These unsustainable patterns are thought to be one of the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment.

The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) presented their Sustainable Food Systems Programme (SFSP) which is a unique collaboration between leading intergovernmental agencies in the areas of food, agriculture and environment. Its objective is to improve resource use efficiency and reduce the pollution intensity of food systems from production to consumption, while at the same time addressing issues of food and nutrition security. 

“Waste and lack of food resources do not happen accidently, they are the result of how systems are organized. We need to involve all stakeholders, recognize the diversity in which we work and  most importantly engage all actors in the decisions, including governments, the private sector and civil society,” said FAO’s Alexandre Meybeck.

In Latin America current consumption patterns, especially gasoline consumption for transportation, are not sustainable according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UNECLAC), and are contributing to climate change at a global level. 
At the community level IFAD is trying to increase productivity, while at the same time reaching global targets for adaptation, by supporting more efficient production system. IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) is contributing  to more sustainable production by focusing on smallholder farmers, providing them with the tools and information they need to reduce losses related to climate risk. 

The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) supports households by promoting clean and sustainable cooking solutions. So far they have helped 600,000 families switch to biogas as a source of domestic power for cooking. This has resulted in health improvements through less accidents and toxic fumes, increased access to power and conservation of biomass. 

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) efficiency improvements can be obtained through cooperation in the workplace. This can take various forms, such as information sharing, direct or indirect consultation, and financial participation. Investing in strategies to improve workplace relations through cooperative means can promote innovation, improve flexibility and facilitate change. It can increase enterprise productivity, efficiency and competitiveness, and lead to more job satisfaction and better wages and working conditions for workers. ILO cited a case from the hotel industry in Thailand and in the Philippines where there was an an 18 percent reduction of laundry expenses, a 30 percent cut in energy use and a 40 percent reduction in food waste.

The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) also works to ensure resource efficiency and cleaner production. It aims for lower carbon industrial development through increasing  process efficiency, minimizing  process emissions and switching to low-carbon inputs. All of this will help increase industrial efficiency.

A rich Q&A session followed the presentations, with interesting observations from the audience. The general opinion was that the main cause of waste, both at the production and consumption level, is in the way cities are organized and in our lifestyles. If we want to see some progress we must modify our behaviour and remember that we are all actors of change.