Rising Food Insecurity And “Leaving No-One Behind”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered its strongest warning yet to members of the United Nations (UN) on the global impacts of accelerating climate temperatures. Key findings of their latest report signal that rapid global warming “poses a grave risk to humanity,” beyond previous forecasts. The IPCC notes that ecosystems, flora, crop production and yields are particularly vulnerable; the impact of climate change upon these will result in an increase in food insecurity and food-related poverty for millions of people. The IPCC’s warning ratifies the UN’s The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World by the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO), at a time of growing collective concern that the global community will fail to meet many of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The IPCC’s report The good, the bad and the ugly: Limiting temperature rise to 1.5C calls for urgent collective state and non-state agent action via international frameworks, as a means to firmly and decisively curb rapidly rising climate temperatures. The report details that current trends in atmospheric temperature increase will exceed 1.5C in the coming decade; this will likely result in more frequent extreme environmental phenomena that will directly impact the world’s environment, alongside millions of lives and livelihoods. The findings suggest that the sum of the the current collective action among the international community will inevitably result in the deterioration of our capacity to meet the world food demand, translating in an increased food insecurity for millions. Hence, the objective of meeting the UN’s SDG goals to eradicate hunger and “leave no-one behind” by 2030 would be made unattainable.

The FAO’s annual review of global food security found that people experiencing severe undernourishment due to insecure access to food supplies increased by 2.1% between 2016 and 2017. Put to real numbers, this percentage comprises 17 million people, out of a total 821 million who suffer from undernourishment.  The fact that 124 million people are currently experiencing acute or crisis level food insecurity is arguably even more frightening. The FAO holds that they require “immediate emergency action to safeguard their lives.” For the majority of these people, access to food is compromised by a combination of factors, in particular by widespread regional violence and conflict, failing economies and vulnerable environments.

Conflicts and violence have long been known to impact food security in a zero-sum manner. For this reason international agents, including the FAO, stress, “efforts to fight hunger must go in hand with those to sustain peace.” Contemporary patterns of conflict certainly correlate with the increase in the percentage of undernourished and food-insecure population; however, climate change and exposure to climate events are equally powerful variables that have a substantial impact on the complex food security challenge.

Alongside the efforts to strengthen international frameworks and trigger processes with the aim of building dialogue and achieve peaceful solutions to conflict, international and governmental agents such as the IPCC, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), FAO etc. are now focusing on supporting states to build resilience against climate impacts. Resilience to environmental changes is promoted by the UN Development Program (UNDP); this involves access to targeted climate financial aid to be invested in infrastructure, technology, information and early climate warning networks. In particular, the aid will target the development of sustainable and adaptive agriculture, energy and water systems, systems for ecosystem preservation and management, and will support in-time disaster recovery initiatives.

As crises due to climate events have become increasingly worrisome, responses from international agents have also heightened; these include action initiatives such as the Global Crisis Risk Platform (GCRP), Famine Action Mechanism (FAM) and stronger partnerships between governments, private sectors, humanitarian agents and civil society. These partnerships not only aim to raise resilience levels and minimise the impacts of climate related disasters on communities, but also to remain on track to achieve the UN 2030 SDGs.

World food insecurity is increasing not only due to violence and conflict, but also as a result of climate change. International agents have synchronised their warnings to the international community that the time for collective action is now. Failure to respond to their calls will threaten the attainment of the overarching SDG objective of “leaving no-one behind,” especially in respect to vulnerable nations. Support should be targeted, to ensure these nations build resilience against the impacts of environmental change. Environmental change has a significant impact on humanity in that it intensifies food insecurity; this is a challenge that must be addressed collectively through cooperation, communication and common agreement. The international structure is effectively in place; all is needed in order to achieve the prescribed results is willingness and affirmative action.

Carolina Morison