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UN Report: Food Waste Strengthens Climate Change

More than 930 million tons of food sold in 2019 went to waste bins, according to the Food Waste Index Report produced by the UN Environment Program (UNEP) and the partner organization WRAP.

The disappearance of food across farms and supply chains also means that one third of food is never eaten overall.

The study represents the most comprehensive food waste data collection, analysis and modeling ever done and offers countries a methodology to accurately measure loss.

If we want to get serious about combating climate change, nature and biodiversity loss, pollution and waste, businesses, governments and citizens around the world must do their part to reduce food waste,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the UN Environment Program (UNEP).

While food waste is often thought of as a problem affecting rich countries, the report found surprisingly similar levels of waste in all countries, although data are not sufficient in the poorest countries.

The study reveals that households waste 11% of food in the consumption phase of the supply chain, while food services and retail outlets waste 5% and 2%, respectively.

According to the report, this situation, which points out that 8% to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are related to unconsumed food, has significant environmental, social and economic implications.

“Reducing food waste will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, slow the degradation of nature through land conversion and pollution, increase the availability of food, and thus reduce hunger and provide economic savings in times of global recession,” Andersen said.

About 690 million people were affected by hunger in 2019, and three billion people could not eat healthy.

While COVID-19 may further increase these numbers, the study urges consumers not to waste food at home. It is also pressing for food waste to be included in the National Contribution Statements (NDC), plans in which countries commit to increasingly ambitious climate action in the Paris Agreement.

Meanwhile, 12.3 in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) aims to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer level and minimize food losses in production and supply chains.

“This year the UN Food Systems Summit will provide the opportunity to initiate bold new actions to tackle food waste globally,” Andersen said.

Comparative Data Missing

While 14 of the countries measuring the increasing number of food waste collect household data in line with the Food Waste Index, 38 countries use methods similar to SDG 12.3.

While the household distribution between edible and inedible foods such as shells and bones exists only in certain high-income countries, there is a lack of information in low-income countries where rates may be higher.

According to the report, it is very important to fill this information gap.

In the next round of SDG 12.3 reporting in late 2022, UNEP will launch regional working groups to help countries’ capacity to measure and record food waste in a timely manner. It will also support these countries and the design of strategies to prevent food waste while developing national bases for tracking progress towards the 2030 target.

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