Today, 4 billion people, or 54% of the global population, live in urban areas. By 2050, this number will grow to over 6.3 billion people, representing 66% of the world's population. Cities will be a major driver of the demand for food and their inhabitants will need access to healthy, sufficient, environmentally friendly food.
Urban food systems are a considerable source of greenhouse gas emissions: from the production and processing of food to its transportation and consumption.
Furthermore, climate change can significantly impact on urban food systems. For example, climate change can create more intense heat waves which can lead to food spoilage, increasing waste and the spread of diseases.
Climate change can also impact on the supply of food to cities. Urban areas often produce only a small portion of what they actually consume. As a result, if extreme weather events such as floods or hurricanes seriously damage transport infrastructure, like bridges and roads, it can interrupt food supply to a city and lead to sudden food shortages.
These, and other climatic events which impact food supply, can cause a rise in food prices. This can have serious consequences for poorer disadvantaged populations, whom represent a quarter of the world's urban population, and who are already nutritionally vulnerable. Actions are needed now in order to transform our urban food systems.
Urban decision-makers need to analyse the repercussions of climate change on our urban food systems with a view to finding solutions to increase resilience.
They can also help to support actions aimed at:
- reducing food waste;
- encouraging farming in urban areas and near-by;
- promoting sustainable diets in communities and schools, including tackling the overconsumption of foods that cause high greenhouse gas emissions;
- diversifying food supply sources so that cities have a range of local, regional and international food supply options
Food systems need to be a core consideration in urban climate change planning and policy. Through our individual actions and by working together, we must take the opportunity now to achieve sustainable urban food systems.