This policy brief explains the challenges of meeting both agricultural and nutritional needs in the face of climate change. It identifies specific opportunities for policy change that can simultaneously enhance food and nutrition security.
By 2100, it is anticipated that up to 40% of the world’s land surface will have to adapt to novel or partially altered climates. A range of climate change impacts on crop and livestock production are projected to lead to a 2% fall in agricultural output per decade through to 2050. Over the same period, food demand will rise by 14% each decade in response to population growth, urbanisation, and increased incomes.
The regions of the world facing the prospect of the most serious impacts of climate change are Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia which already have the highest burden of malnutrition and where the poor rely heavily on agriculture for their livelihoods.
Raising the production of staple crops will not be enough to make agriculture more resilient or to address the world’s need for improved diets. Nutrient-rich foods are particularly susceptible to climate change impacts, including drought, the spread of pests and diseases, and temperature fluctuations.
There is also growing evidence that higher levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may reduce the nutrient content and/or quality of various staple crops, making them less inherently nutritious.
Urgent action is required by governments to link food system resilience with higher quality diets and nutrition. This brief explains the challenges of meeting both agricultural and nutritional needs in the face of climate change, and identifies specific opportunities for policy change that can simultaneously enhance food and nutrition security.
Nutrition-sensitive food systems have the potential to be climate-smart. While evidence of effective climate change interventions is still limited, there is already a good understanding of how diets and the environments in which food choices are made can be better managed in response to weather extremes and price volatility. Climate-smart actions which support nutrition entail a focus on diverse, high-quality and healthy diets. Solutions lie in the diversification of agricultural and non-farm production systems, the mitigation of climate-related stresses on crop and livestock quality, food value-chain investments to retain nutrients and reduce perishability (including greater efficiency in post-harvest storage, processing and transportation), enhancement of diet quality through more informed consumer choices, and the buffering of purchasing power in the context of supply and price shocks.
The Global Panel recommends six major policy actions to governments:
Include diet quality goals within adaptation targets proposed for climate action.
Diversify agricultural investments, factoring in the local realities of ecological suitability and comparative advantage.
Support greater food system efficiency so that outputs per unit of water, energy, land and other inputs are optimised and the footprint of agriculture and non-farm activities are better managed to meet both food demand and higher-quality diets.
Integrate measures to improve climate change resilience and the nutritional value of crop and livestock products along the value chain, from production to marketing.
Protect the diet quality of the poor in the face of supply shocks and growing food demand.
Promote the generation and use of rigorous evidence on appropriate investments along food value-chains which are resilient to climate change and also deliver positive dietary outcomes and support improved nutrition.