NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) – A major overhaul of the global food system is urgently needed if the world is to combat hunger, use natural resources more efficiently and stem environmental damage, the International Resource Panel (IRP) says.

In its latest report, the IRP – a consortium of 34 internationally renowned scientists, over 30 national governments and other groups hosted by UNEP – calls for a switch to a “resource-smart” food system that changes the way food is grown, harvested, processed, traded, transported, stored, sold and consumed.

Current food systems, which the IRP says are “inefficient” and “unsustainable”, are responsible for 60 per cent of global terrestrial biodiversity loss and about 24 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

They are also responsible for the overfishing of 29 per cent of commercial fish populations and the overexploitation of 20 per cent of the world’s aquifers.

Although food production has increased across the world, more than 800 million people remain hungry, more than two billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies – mainly vitamin A, iodine, iron and zinc – and more than two billion people are overweight or obese, the report notes.

Compounding the problem, pressure on natural resources is expected to rise as populations grow and demand for food increases.

To combat these problems, the IRP says a “resource-smart” food system should be adopted, a system that adheres to three principles: low environmental impacts, the sustainable use of renewable resources and the efficient use of all resources.

“We have the knowledge and the tools at our disposal to feed all the people in the world while minimising harm to the environment. A better, more sustainable food system can allow us to produce and consume food without the detrimental effects on our natural resources,” UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said.

He added, “The environment is not the only beneficiary of this system. More sustainable consumption and production of food will also be a boon to human health and the goal to end hunger throughout the world.”

To help the world shifts to a more sustainable food system, the IRP has come up with a list of 12 key recommendations for governments, private companies, civil society and citizens.

They include reducing food loss and waste and moving away from resource-intensive products such as meat, ‘empty calories’ and highly processed food.

Governments also need to connect rural and urban centres, especially in developing regions, where urban actors (for example supermarkets) could invest in regional supply chains and improve the position of smallholders.

Urban consumers should also be connected with how their food is produced and how it reaches their plates, and inform them about both the health and environmental consequences of dietary choices.

Other recommendations include protecting peri-urban zones around cities and use them for local food production and decoupling food production from resource use and environmental impacts, and replace certain inputs (such as pesticides) with ecosystem services.

The IRP report also recommends removing harmful subsidies, such as fossil fuel subsidies, that encourage unsustainable production and practices.

“The need for housing that involves using sand to make bricks should be banned. Taking sand from river banks messes up river water cycles, taking away top soil that is crucial for agriculture,” said Ashok Khosla, former IRP co-chair.

He called for adoption of traditional food production systems to protect the environment.
“In the past, our parents used one calorie to produce 300 calories of food. Today it is the reverse. We need to go back to the past because there was limited destruction of ecosystems,” he said.

Compounding current problems, rising wealth in developing countries will lead people to adopt diets that are richer in resource-intensive products – meat, fish, fruits, vegetables and highly processed foods – at a time when climate change will make producing food increasingly difficult.

As per-capita income rises, people’s diets change from one that is largely rich in carbohydrates to a diet richer in calories, sugars, and lipids, with more livestock-based products. In combination with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, this has led to a sharp increase in obesity, the report states.

The report blames the high consumption of animal-based products and highly processed foods for triggering “disproportionate environmental costs” while undermining public health due to obesity related disease.

Globally, chicken meat and dairy consumption are expected to increase by 20 per cent over the next 10 years while the consumption of pig meat and beef is also projected to increase, both by around 14 per cent, according to the report.

Ibrahim Thiaw, UNEP’s Deputy Executive Director said the use of resources by humanity is not sustainable and scientific knowledge is key to finding solutions to the problem.

“We have a dilemma because we must feed billions of people without depleting the natural resources,” Thiaw said.

Janez Potocnik, IRP’s co-chair said the world’s population will be 9.7 billion in 2050 yet 60 per cent of the ecosystems are already degraded.

“Current food systems must change because they are unsustainable. Currently, 24 per cent of global gas emissions are related to food production,” he said.

He added, “We need to produce food sustainably with no land degradation, no depletion and efficiently with high productivity and low environmental damage. This is so because one billion people depend on traditional food systems, four billion depend on intermediaries and two billion on modern food systems bought in supermarkets.”

The report lists various options which at different points of intervention and by diverse actors throughout the system, could lead to resource efficiency gains of up to 30 per cent for certain resources and impacts.

Some of these options include sustainable intensification’ of crop production – higher yields without increasing environmental impacts.

Better feed conversion and higher productivity of pastoral systems and higher nutrient efficiency along the food chain – better recycling of minerals in animal manure and use of by-products or food waste as feed or compost.

Other recommendations are more efficient aquaculture systems – lower nutrient losses and less impact on coastal systems and reduction of overconsumption and change of unhealthy dietary patterns – shift in affluent societies from animal-based to more plant-based diets.

“If the above changes are not made, land degradation, the depletion of aquifers and fish stocks and contamination of the environment will lower future food production capacity. It will undermine the food systems upon which our food security depends, as well as cause further degradation of other ecosystem functions,” the report warns.

By David Njagi
NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Illegal logging is collapsing the world timber market, experts at the ongoing United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) meeting in Nairobi have warned.

Scientists accuse cartels involved in the fourth most profitable illegal trade of applying elusive tactics such as bribery and money laundering to deny the global economy billions of dollars.

Investigations by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), indicate that small illegal timber trade has fanned out and entered the world market cheaply.

But the amount being trafficked by big traders through international financial flows has become almost impossible to trace, argues Paolo Cerutti, an official with (CIFOR).

“The market for certified timber is very small and so it could be crippled by illegal trade,” says Cerutti.

According to Jamie Webb of the UNEP REDD+ project, the global economy losses more than 30 billion dollars annually due to illegal timber logging and trade.

Details shared by the UNEA team which scrutinized the economic potential of fighting illegal logging indicate that most of the cartels have their roots in Africa.

“Africa is a place where the timber industry is often working along the margins of unclear laws,” argues Davyth Stewart, of the environmental security programme at the International Police Organization (INTERPOL). “Illegal logging takes advantage of these ambiguous laws.”

According to him, logging cartels in Africa could be working with government officials in the Ministries of infrastructure and development, as well as mining, agriculture, or forestry departments.

This, he says, makes it difficult for law enforcers to track the illegal trade chain because it is protected by powerful government personalities.

“The biggest concern for Africa is the inability to regulate, control and manage the timber industry because of unclear and ambiguous laws,” says Stewart. “This is how the cartels have been able to remain undercover.”

Poor land tenure in Africa, he says, also makes it very difficult to identify the owners where the logging is taking place.

In some countries like Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), 90 per cent of the timber is sourced illegally.

However, Webbe of UNEP, recommends the use of DNA tracing to hunt offenders, where the technology is so far working in USA.

By Protus Onyango
NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Calls for paradigm shift, a united approach, more funding and ratification of the Paris Agreement to tackle global environmental degradation dominated the high-level session of the UN Environmental Assembly (UNEA 2) yesterday.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta while officially opening the high-level segment attended by ministers and high-level representatives of over 170 governments, stressed the need for partnerships to address effects of climate change.

"For the past two decades, we have seen a movement emerge across the world that protecting the environment cannot be a tertiary matter. We must make sacrifices now to leave our children a viable tomorrow," Uhuru said.

The President noted that with African countries dependent on agriculture to tackle poverty and unemployment, the continent has more to lose if it acts to conserve the environment and most to gain by mitigating climate change challenges.

"Africa must prioritize environment matters and be supported to achieve its goals towards sustainable development. We have to work together to accelerate environmental management so that we win as a team or all of us lose," Uhuru said.

He noted that as a country Kenya is at the forefront of ensuring sustainable growth and called on the world to help it in its efforts to conserve the environment.

"We have taken steps to ensure a sustainable planet. We have invested in renewable energy in wind, geothermal and sun to power our activities. We have adopted a green economy strategy. We call upon our partners to support us in our endeavours to make the world a better place to live in," the President said.

He reiterated Kenya's commitment against poaching and illegal trade in wildlife products.

"In April, we held the Giants Summit here and went forth to burn ivory from 8000 elephants and 100 rhinos. This showed the world that ivory is worthless unless it is on the elephants," Uhuru said.

As a follow up to the ivory burn, the President urged the world to back the country's call for a total ban on illegal ivory trade.

"Later this year, my government will in South Africa during the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference seek for a total ban on ivory trade," Uhuru said.

He promised that Kenya will support actionable outcomes agreed upon at the conference and continue supporting UNEP to execute its mandate to preserve the environment.

Jan Eliasson –UN Deputy Secretary General who represented Secretary General Ban Ki Moon echoed Uhuru's sentiments for a universal approach to mitigate against effects of environmental erosion.

"I am inspired to be here among UNEA member states because decisions made here will impact on the future generations to come," Eliasson said.

The Deputy Secretary General called for a more comprehensive, clear and decisive action plan to tackle environment matters.

"We need to safeguard the world and in turn make peace for the world. In 2015, we signed the Paris Agreement for climate change and now we have the sustainable development goals (SGDs). We now need a transformative agenda to tackle water, sanitation, climate change and human settlement," Eliasson said.

He added, "We need courage, foresight and wisdom to address devastating impacts of climate change. Let us have an integrated approach to build peace and security, build resilience, address conflicts before they reach tipping points," he said.

He called for partnerships so as to be able to address climate change.

"We need to revitalize global partnerships to address the challenges for global growth. 2016 is more demanding as we need to translate environment issues into national and international agenda and deliver a sustainable future to our children," Eliasson said.

Achim Steiner – the outgoing UNEP Executive Director urged delegates to dialogue and come up with concrete agreements to foster the environment agenda.

"I have been at the helm of UNEP for ten years. I am happy with my achievements. I leave when we now have a global voice through UNEA on environment," Steiner said.

He added, "We need a new era for environmental governance. I cite the Kenyan proverb that says 'Baba yangu alinifunza kutunza mazingira ndipo dunia iwe nzuri (My father taught me to protect the environment so that the world becomes a good bless to live in) as my challenge to the world.

France's Environment Minister Ségolène Royal who was the Conference of Parties (COP21) president which was held in her country last year called for implementation of the Paris Agreement.

"I urge governments to implement the Paris Agreement to address climate change as it gives rise to conflicts, war, poverty, drought, access to water, desertification and human and animal migration," Ms Royal said.

She noted that if climate change is not tackled now, millions of people will be forced to migrate to better zones and accelerate conflicts.

"So far, 50 nations have ratified the Paris Agreement including 14 most vulnerable ones. This meeting offers us an opportunity of a lifetime to work together with scientists who discovered that human activities are responsible for climate change and disasters," Ms Royal said.

She added, "We need money to do this. We have mobilised US 60 billion dollars of the US 100 billion dollars committed by the international community towards climate change activities. We need to act without greed to stop destruction of the environment."

She promised Kenya for her efforts in conservation. "I was here when President Uhuru burnt ivory and rhino horns. I promised to ban trade in wildlife products in France. I have already signed a ministerial order for this. I urge others to follow suit so that we save our animals," Ms Royal said.

Salaheddine Mezouar, Morocco's Minister of Foreign Affairs and COP 22 president called for more funding to enable countries carry out climate change mitigation projects.

"We need dynamic renewal in Africa. We need a paradigm shift and work in solidarity, commitment and determination. We need a new civilisation, a new world mindset that shares resources equitably. We should act as a team because this is a global problem," Mezouar noted.

He called for a collaborative effort towards achieving SDGs.

"As hosts for COP 22 in December, we want to start something new. We need a conviction to move away from promises to actions. Let us work together with governments, civil society and private sector to have a one-stop-shop for financing climate change activities," Mezouar said.

Dr Edgar Gutierrez,the incoming president of UNEA called for ambitious decisions to save the world from further degradation.

"It is time for a new world order, more coherence and coordination in the UN system and clarity for sustainable development. UNEA 2 offers us a chance to agree on steps to transform the world," said Minister of Environment for Costa Rica.

He added, "We need a new world alliance that is inclusive to share economic aspects, scientific knowledge and technology to save the world."

Solheim pledges to tackle major environmental issues such as ocean and air pollution, climate change, and nexus between conflict, migration and the environment

NAIROBI, Kenya (PAMACC News) - Erik Solheim, a former Minister of Environment and International Development in Norway has began his tenure as Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, with the concurrent position of UN Under-Secretary-General. Mr. Solheim assumes his new role as chief of the global authority on the environment after three years as head of the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

In taking up office, Solheim pledged to work with countries around the world to tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges of our time, including ocean and air pollution, the destruction of ecosystems, climate change and the relationship between the environment and conflict and migration.

He also promised to focus on environment issues close to people, such as damage to human health from air pollution.

Solheim said, "There is an urgent need to fight climate change, halt ecosystem destruction, and reduce pollution for the benefit of all peoples everywhere. By protecting our planet, we protect ourselves and in the process can help bring every last person out of poverty. We all have a stake in a healthy planet."

He noted other urgent areas to address include the private sector investment needed for sustainable development, greening the finance sector and creating jobs and markets with clean and green technologies.

"Financing the preservation and rejuvenation of our planet cannot be the purview of governments alone. Private sector finance is both vital for sustainable development, and an opportunity for business. As never before, markets are rewarding investments in clean and green jobs and technologies."

Solheim also underlined that issues like climate change and sustainable development are issues that no one country or organization can solve themselves, and that the world must come together to tackle environmental challenges.

"With successes like the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, the world has achieved a lot in recent years when it comes to the environment. We can achieve a lot more. But the only way to do this is by working cooperatively. I look forward to working with member states and welcoming voices and efforts from all parts of society to tackle our common challenges.

"Our planet is vulnerable, but I'm optimistic we can resolve the environmental problems we face. There's little we can't achieve when we pull together with cooperation, collaboration and a can-do attitude."

Solheim arrives after having served as Chair of the DAC of the OECD since 2013. Since that time, he has also served as UN Environment Programme's Special Envoy for Environment, Conflict and Disaster. Known as the 'green' politician, he held the combined portfolio of Norway's Minister of the Environment and International Development from 2007 to 2012, and served as Minister of International Development from 2005 to 2007.

Having spent most of his career fighting for the environment in national and global politics, including through non-governmental organizations and during his combined ministerial portfolio, Mr. Solheim has focused on the challenge of integrating environmental and developmental issues. During his ministerial tenure, Norway reached 1 per cent of its GDP for overseas development assistance and passed the unique Nature Diversity Act. He initiated the process leading to the global coalition to conserve and promote sustainable use of the world's rainforests - the UN REDD - gaining invaluable diplomatic and organizational experience.

Holding an undergraduate degree in history and social studies from the University of Oslo, Mr. Solheim has received several awards for his work on climate and environment, including UN Environment Programme's "Champion of the Earth" award, and contributed to a number of peace and reconciliation efforts, most notably as the chief negotiator of the peace process in Sri Lanka.

Born in 1955, he is married, with four children.

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