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Global Organizations Take Major Step Toward Cutting Food Waste

Food
Global Organizations Take Major Step Toward Cutting Food Waste

With an estimated 50 percent of all food produced worldwide thrown away, the World Resources Institute (WRI) is taking aim at reducing food waste.

WRI announced an initiative Monday that sets standards for measuring food loss and waste, which is characterized as a first step that will enable countries and companies to measure and monitor the food loss and waste within their boundaries and value chains in a "credible, practical and consistent manner."

Photo credit: ecoosfera.com

The forthcoming guidance, Food Loss and Waste Protocol, will contribute to the Think Eat Save: Reduce Your Food Print campaign led by UN Environment Programme (UNEP) in collaboration with Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and other partners, as well as to FAO’s Save Food Initiative. The protocol development will build on other programs, including engagement with EU FUSIONS, which is developing food waste measurement guidance for the European Union.

By creating a global standard, the protocol will ensure international consistency, enable comparability and facilitate transparency by users. In using the protocol, countries and companies will be able to identify how much and where food is being lost and wasted. WRI plans to convene numerous experts and stakeholders to develop the protocol. Participants will include representatives from academia, the private sector, government and civil society organizations.

Food loss and waste refers to food intended for human consumption that is not ultimately eaten and a significant amount of food is lost and wasted each year.

One-third of food by weight (or one-quarter measured by calories) intended for people is not ultimately consumed. About two-thirds of the food calories lost in developing countries occurs immediately after harvest and in storage. About half of the food calories wasted in developed countries occurs at the point of consumption, whether at home or when eating elsewhere.

If food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind the U.S. and China. WRI estimates that halving the rate of food loss and waste by 2050 would close more than 20 percent of the gap between the food available today and what is needed in 2050.

“Meeting the world’s growing food demand is one of the great challenges we face. But we can shift this dynamic by greatly reducing food loss and waste, a critical step in ensuring that all people have enough food to meet their needs,” Dr. Andrew Steer, WRI president and CEO, said in a press release. “Developing a consistent global standard to measure food loss and waste will help create a more sustainable future for people and the planet.”

The announcement was made at the Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) conference in Copenhagen, with the leaders of WRI, UNEP, WRAP, World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and others. The FAO director general also participated in the forum.

“The absurd reality that one-third of all the food we produce is lost or wasted each year has significant impacts on people and the planet,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP executive director. “Wasting and losing 1.3 billion tons of food annually is clearly an ethical issue given that 870 million people go hungry every day, not to mention the 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases this waste adds to the planet’s atmosphere.”

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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