Following groundbreaking WRI research, the transformation of the global food system claimed a prominent position among tactics to tackle the climate crisis.

The Challenge

The global food system plays a pivotal role in combating climate change. For example, one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture and land use change. If food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, after China and the United States.

Yet until recently, decision-makers rarely factored the food system into their climate change mitigation strategies.

WRI’s Role

Through research, outreach and engagement, WRI lifted the nexus of food systems and climate onto the international agenda. WRI’s initiatives spearheaded efforts on food loss and waste reduction, shifting diets, agroforestry, and strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

WRI’s flagship World Resources Report (WRR), Creating a Sustainable Food Future (published in 2019), identified a menu of solutions for how the world can feed 10 billion people by 2050 while meeting the Paris Agreement on climate change. Similarly, the Food & Land Use Coalition’s (FOLU) Growing Better report detailed 10 critical transitions for transforming food and land use for the sake of people and the planet.

WRI and FOLU experts engaged closely with decision-makers in Denmark, Colombia and China on strategies to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions. And our experts provided advice to the leadership of the UN’s 2021 Food Systems Summit and co-led several summit action tracks. 

The Outcome

For the first time, the nexus of food systems and climate has emerged on the global agenda.

The shift in narrative is evident across governments, businesses, philanthropies, media and more. At the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, food’s impact on the climate took center stage. A couple months later at the UN climate summit (COP26), the climate community included food systems-related issues on the agenda. Countries such as China, Colombia, Denmark, Ethiopia and those in the European Union are incorporating food systems into their emissions-reduction plans. The Bezos Earth Fund recently announced $1 billion to transform food systems as part of its commitment to combatting climate change. Numerous companies now have initiatives in place to reduce their food footprints’ environmental impact, such as by shifting towards plant-based diets and curbing food loss and waste. And media coverage of the food-climate nexus has expanded dramatically over the past few years.

With the relationship between food systems and climate appearing in such significant venues, the change in understanding and narrative can help inspire more climate action and advance the vision of a more equitable and sustainable food future.