World Environment Day: Tackling climate change requires systems thinking and collective action

Bn-51-MIcAAa__PYesterday’s World Environment Day, the United Nations’ principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the environment, focused on tackling climate change. This year’s theme is Raise your voice, not the sea level. First established in 1972, every year on 5th June countries around the world host seminars, events and environmental projects from cleaning up Kosovo to solar electric roofs in Barbados to plastic purges on the beaches of Sri Lanka. And there are the WED challenges.

This year is also the UN International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and part of the activities of WED were to raise awareness about the challenges SIDS face, their vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise and the urgent need to help protect the islands.

The message of WED is that our individual actions will aggregate into collective action with the power to transform, in this case mitigating climate change and its impacts. A draft of the IPCC 5th Assessment Report “Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change” recently released, supports this message stating that “effective mitigation will not be achieved if individual agents advance their own interests independently”. Emissions in one area, sector or emitted by one person have broader impacts for others. Greenhouse gas emissions largely produced in developed countries and emerging economies are putting small island states at risk, a problem requiring collective action.

The IPCC report states that without additional mitigation, global mean surface temperature increases by 2100 will be between 3.7 °C and 4.8 °C compared to pre-industrial levels (the range is 2.5 °C to 7.8 °C when including climate uncertainty). Agriculture, forestry and other land uses (AFOLU) contribute 24% of total direct GHG emissions, second only to electricity and heat production which accounts for 25% (followed by Industry at 21% and transport at 14%).

In order to increase the chances of maintaining global average temperature increases at below 2°C, atmospheric concentrations of CO2 need to be around 450ppm in 2100. Scenarios achieving this target all have reduced GHG emissions, by 40% to 70%, by the middle of the century and emissions near zero GtCO2 eq or below in 2100. Such scenarios represent significant opportunities for improving air quality, energy security, human health and ecosystem resilience but many trade-offs and co-benefits have not been identified or quantified and climate policies will need to be assessed both on their potential to help mitigate climate change and by their effects on sustainable development, poverty eradication and equity. [Read more…]

14 ways to reduce your food waste

Reduce food wasteWorld Environment Day, the theme being food loss and food waste, got us thinking about practical ways we can reduce the amount of food we throw away. In developing countries the majority of food losses occur at the farm level, particularly during storage, where food is often ‘lost’ after it has been harvested. In the developed world, however, food is most often ‘wasted’ when it is thrown away by retailers and consumers.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated that some 32% of all food produced in the world in 2009 was lost or wasted. The World Resources Institute converted this figure from food weight to food calories and found that some 24% of food is lost or wasted, that’s 1 in 4 food calories that are never consumed. As the Institute points out it is not just a loss of food but a loss of money and a waste of land. $1600 is the value of food thrown away by the average American family each year while 198 million hectares of land (an area almost the size of Mexico) are used to grow this food that is never consumed.

Given that there are around a billion people who are chronically hungry despite there being enough food in the world means tackling food waste and food loss is urgent. But it is a challenge because it is about accessing crop storage technologies, achieving more resilient agricultural production and better market opportunities for poor farmers in developing countries while at the same time changing behaviour and consumption patterns in the developed world.

We’ve scoured the web to find some tips to help us reduce the amount of food waste we generate. [Read more…]

World Environment Day 2013

fwclogoToday, the second day of the European Green Week conference in Brussels, is World Environment Day.  The theme of the conference is Cleaner Air for All, while World Environment Day is centred around supporting the anti-food waste and food loss campaign, Think.Eat.Save.

Every year 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted, equivalent to the same amount produced in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger. Today we are being urged to become more aware of the environmental impact of our food choices and of the enormous imbalance in lifestyles in the world. For the average UK family, as written by Philip Clarke, the Chief Executive of Tesco, food waste costs Tesco customers around £680 ($1,045) a year.

To get involved in Green Week, the largest conference on the environment in Europe, you can follow the debates online and via social media. All the details are here: www.greenweek2013.eu. To see how others are supporting World Environment Day and how you can get involved visit: http://www.unep.org/wed/activities/

To become a more informed consumer you can visit Generation Awake, an EU campaign on resource efficiency. In their words, “making smart day-to-day decisions that consider the environment will help you save money and improve your lifestyle as well as make your city, your country, Europe and the planet healthier and more sustainable.”