Food Loss, Waste Account for 8 Per Cent of All Greenhouse‑Gas Emissions, Says Deputy Secretary-General, Marking Inaugural International Awareness Day

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the high-level World Bank Group virtual event, held in conjunction with the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste, today

This year we add an important new day to the United Nations calendar:  the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste.

Addressing food loss and waste is everyone’s responsibility.  Today, 690 million people are hungry and 3 billion cannot afford a healthy diet.  The COVID-19 pandemic could push a further 130 million people into chronic hunger by the end of this year.  And yet considerable quantities of the food produced today across the globe are lost or wasted and never make it to the mouth of the consumer.

This underscores that food loss and waste is an ethical imperative and essential to sustainability.  Exactly what needs to be done varies around the world.  But, achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target 12.3, to halve per capita food loss and waste by 2030, will require big acts by big players, as well as every-day contributions from farmers and consumers.

Firstly, I urge countries to set a reduction target aligned with SDG target 12.3, measure their food loss and waste to monitor progress, and act boldly.

Secondly, we should build on and take to scale the solutions that are already being deployed to successfully reduce food loss and waste along the entire supply chain, including the levels of production, storage and processing, markets and consumption.  At the production level, the deployment of information and communications technology platforms is providing smallholder farmers with technical information to reduce losses and support them to be more responsive to changes in supply and demand.

At the levels of storage and processing, new low-cost handling, storage and transport technologies are gaining traction in developing countries.  Investment in storage and related infrastructure is growing — and getting smarter.  For example, in Africa we are seeing enhanced investments in climate-resilient drying, processing, packaging, storage, logistics, distribution and other post-harvest activities that cut down on food losses and raise farmer incomes.

At the market level, Governments around the world are engaging in public‑private partnerships to redistribute surplus food, avoid thousands of tons of waste and provide millions of meals.  Retailers are also changing date labels to help prevent waste.

Thirdly, and crucially, individually we can take actions through the choices we make at home, at restaurants or at the grocery store.  Wherever possible, we should buy only what we need or can properly store, plan our meals and prioritize eating food approaching its expiration date.

Successfully tackling food loss and waste means increasing the availability and access to food, reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture and shifting towards more sustainable patterns of production and consumption.  In particular, progress in this area can help countries meet the Paris commitments.  Food loss and waste account for 8 per cent of all greenhouse‑gas emissions.  By making specific commitments in their updated nationally determined contributions, countries could reduce emissions by 4.5 gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide per year.

Indeed, the systemic nature of the challenge and the integrated solutions needed, demonstrate why the Secretary-General will convene a food systems summit next year.  As we embark on the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030, this summit recognizes that transforming our food systems is central to achieve the SDGs.  The summit will seek to engage as many people as possible, in particular our young people, in solutions-oriented dialogues to rethink how we produce, process, market and consume our food and dispose of our waste.  We don’t need to wait for the summit to take action.  We should start now, and we can start at dinner tonight.

As we tackle the COVID-19 crisis, the United Nations system looks forward to building on our strong working relationship with the World Bank at country level.  Together, we can identify local food system challenges and turn this crisis into an opportunity to rebalance and transform our food systems, making them more inclusive, sustainable and resilient.

This first observance of the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste is an invitation to all of us to work together to build the future we want, and to help lead the way in our recovery from COVID-19 to deliver a sustainable future for our children.

For information media. Not an official record.