Just Transitions Needed For Our Planet’s Food Systems In The Face Of Global Warming

Oct 23 2019 Posted: 14:34 IST

Global warming is now a major threat to the ability of our food systems to equitably feed a growing world population, a major conference in Dublin will hear this week. Climate change is likely to reduce global production of staple foods such as rice and wheat, while causing a reduction in the nutritional value of important staple foods. Such issues will form the agenda of the annual conference of the Irish Forum for International Agricultural Development (IFIAD).

Not only are crop yields and the nutritional value of foods under threat from climate change, but the change in temperatures is also likely to have a dramatic effect on crop diseases and on pest populations. Warmer conditions and changing seasons are affecting the breeding cycles of insects harmful to agricultural crops, livestock and human life. Climate change poses the most severe threats to the food systems, livelihoods and nutrition of rural people in some of the poorest and most vulnerable regions of the world.

Established by a consortium that includes the Dept. of Agriculture, Irish Aid, Teagasc, Ireland’s agricultural development NGOs and Irish universities, IFIAD’s 4th Annual Conference takes place at Iveagh House, headquarters of the Dept of Foreign Affairs today (Wednesday, 23October).

Guest speakers at the event include keynote speaker Gilbert Houngbo, a former Prime Minister of Togo who is President of the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Julia Wolf, climate change officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Lawrence Haddad of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Bruce Campbell from the global Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security program of the CGIAR. Irish youth leader and climate change activist Sophie Healy Thow, Margaret Ngetha of Self Help Africa and John Gilliland of Devenish Nutrition will also speak at the event.

The Chair of IFIAD, Professor Charles Spillane from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “The food systems that supply our food and nutrition will need to undergo significant transformations if they are to become more sustainable and equitable in the face of climate change and other sustainability crises. Such shifts will require large-scale changes in how our food is produced, processed and consumed in everyday diets. We face major challenges to reduce the environmental footprint of our foods while increasing its nutritional quality and affordability. In parallel, our agrifood value chains and associated employment will need to become more resilient to adverse impacts of climate change. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains the pledge to “leave no one behind”, and in particular to “reach the furthest behind first”.

“From a nutritional perspective, the 700 million people suffering from severe undernutrition, and the 650 million people suffering from severe over nutrition leading to obesity, can be considered as amongst the nutritionally “furthest behind”. This years IFIAD Conference will debate what can be done to ensure a “just transition” of our food systems in the face of climate change to better meet the needs of those who are nutritionally the “furthest behind”. The Conference will present some of the measures and options for our food systems to respond to these issues, nationally and globally.”

IFIAD was established as a forum for Irish researchers, practitioners and policy advocates to better leverage Ireland’s expertise for the benefit of development programmes overseas, and to maximise Ireland’s contribution to agriculture-driven poverty reduction in developing countries.


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