New Delhi: Climate change impacts each one of us, as we gear up for COP26, 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which is being held in the United Kingdom from October 31 to November 12, we speak with Pradnya Paithankar from United Nations World Food Programme(UNWFP). As a part of NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India’s campaign facebook live, Mrs Paithankar explains the threat Climate Crisis poses to food security and how individuals can contribute towards climate crisis.
Here’s what she said:
Question: How this change in climate affects sustainable development goals overall?
Pradnya Paithankar: Talking about Sustainable Development Goals, I would like to stress SDG2 which aims to achieve a hunger-free world and it covers all areas of food and nutrition. This specific goal depends on four dimensions –
a. the availability of the food,
b. Economic and physical accessibility, c. Use of food
d. Stability of all the above three dimensions over a period of time
Moreover, world hunger is on rise as indicated by recent statistics. Climate crisis and the pandemic are the major drivers. The progress on SDG2 has been extremely slow and there is interconnectedness between various SDGs. SDG2 is interlinked with a lot of other factors like education, health, wellbeing, gender issues, food wastage and losses and most importantly climate change. Climate change impacts SDG2 to a greater extent. When we talk about climate change, it is already affecting all these four dimensions of food security and its implications actually extend towards all determinants of malnutrition.
If we talk about the link between climate change and SDGs, I would say that most of the indicators are impacted by climate change, but SDG2 specifically is extremely sensitive towards climate fragilities and climate-induced events.
Question: How is food production impacted by climate change?
Pradnya Paithankar: Our food production is heavily impacted because of climate change. As our main driver – the agriculture sector directly gets the burden of the climate crisis. Whenever we talk about food production the most important part is the agriculture sector and when we talk about that sector it is determined with various other factors like rise in temperature, global warming, rain, heatwaves to name a few. Global warming affects the precipitation, the rainfall pattern and the changes in these all have an impact on production.
We are seeing the changes in the patterns, for example, now there are floods in the areas where it never used to happen. Overall floods are becoming more intense and frequent. Heatwaves are becoming recurrent and all these are having its own impact on agriculture production.
Question: Food systems are impacted by climate change and they also contribute towards climate crisis – how do we address this twin challenge?
Pradnya Paithankar: Our food system actually gives rise to greenhouse gases. It contributes to about 20-30% of emissions, of this 50% is actually contributed by agriculture. Also, the agriculture sector is the first one to get affected by climate change and result in social and economic consequences. It is particularly visible among the poorest household, the majority of which depends particularly on agriculture.
On the other hand, the agriculture sector itself contributes to climate change. I think, there is now the need to look upon strategies like:
– Producers should be at the heart of the solutions
– Solutions should be producer centric and their access, training and financing must be felicitated easily
– We should also start looking at crop modifications or alternative source of livelihoods that will in turn reduce the pressure on agriculture
Question: How big a challenge is food wastage on climate change and hunger? What can we do at an individual level?
Pradnya Paithankar: Food wastage and hunger is a situation that coexists. The problem is very huge and the question to answer is how we can really make 1.3 billion ton of food lost through losses and wastage available to about 1.6 billion people across the globe, people who really need it.
So, how can we really achieve the equitable distribution by leaving no one behind is a question we all need to answer. At an individual level, a lot of things can be done, starting right from bringing in the discipline in life be it in feeding practices or cooking. We have to stop wasting food and inculcate the habit of becoming sensitive towards any type of wastage. We need to be mindful of what we are eating and how are we storing it. We need to make choices that reduce the food transportation costs, storage costs, which simply means, we need to start sourcing locally available food. Become a change agent by disciplining yourself and your household when it comes to food wastage.
Question: How climate action can be more participatory?
Pradnya Paithankar: Community participation and local actions are more imperative to deal with the climate crisis. At the community level it is more important to report the changes and challenges the communities are facing due to climate change. It is equally important to invest in local voices. We should bring these local voices in the decision-making and planning committees. We should promote locally own community-based solutions and it is now important to bring all stakeholders together and make a positive change. Climate change should be converted into a people’s movement.
Question: How do global warming affects crops when it comes to the nutritional value of food and staples?
Pradnya Paithankar: We need to know that we are dealing with huge rates of malnutrition, especially when we talk about the Asia-Pacific region. If climate change is really stealing out the nutrition value from the food that we eat then how do we achieve SDG2.
There is a report that highlighted the challenges of climate change, it stated that wheat is grown at atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide levels 546, it has about 6-13% less protein and about 3-4% less zinc and iron.
And we know how India and Asia regions of the world are suffering from Anaemia. So, how we will sustain the nutrition in our diets is something we really need to think about, along with the climate crisis.
We need to start looking at climate-resilient crops like millets and at the same time think of ways in which we can ensure we can save the nutritional values of our fruits and vegetables, which is considered as the key component of a healthy diet.
Question: Why is COP26 important and how does it impacts young people?
Pradnya Paithankar: COP26 is important to secure our current and future generations, to promise a safe life for them and our planet as there is no planet B.
This platform actually provides a great opportunity to highlight and commit to urgent actions by countries across the globe on the issues of priority in terms of climate crisis. If we talk about specific goals, COP26 has laid down some concrete goals for itself, some of the issues like 2030 targets on carbon emissions, net-zero target for 2050. The platform also provides an opportunity to finalise the Paris rulebook and know-how countries and members plan to achieve that.
Today, the younger generation is the largest in history. Moreover, more and more young people are today involved with the climate crisis as they will be the one who will be facing huge consequences. They have a huge role to play, they will be the one who will become change makers of tomorrow.
Question: Does global warming affects women and men differently? Who gets more hungry with increased global warming?
Pradnya Paithankar: Biologically speaking we should get equally hungry. However, saying that we also know women do play a pivotal role in feeding their families as they engage in producing and processing the food and meals for the entire family not just for them.
Climate change has an immediate and long terms impacts on the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable communities, which women are part of.
Question: How do food from farm to plate contribute towards climate crisis?
Pradnya Paithankar: The production is impacted by rain, heat and rise in temperature. There could be increase of pesticides or there can be an increase of diseases – all together will have a major impact on the production.
If we talk about the second food system that is storage then that is again affected – because there can be a change in the humidity levels as a result cold storage needs can be increased and this can give rise to food wastage.
Whereas, if we talk about the third stage which is retail and marketing then there is an impact on food prices. If the prices of the food go up then naturally the availability and accessibility of food among poor will be reduced and that again has an huge impact on food and nutrition security.
For example, when a farmer produces food like millets, if it is locally consumed then it is fine. But if it goes from the place a to place, then it contributes to greenhouse gases as it will require storage, it will involve storage. What is critical to know is how we can reduce overall pollution in this overall food chain, once we realise that, we will be able to fight climate change.
You can listen to the full Banega Swasth India podcast discussion by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.