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Financing a Sustainable Global Food System

The global food system must undergo a radical transformation to withstand climate change and provide affordable, healthy food for the whole world. Support from the financial sector is key to making this transition a success.

BEIJING – The global food system is unsustainable. While it is worth approximately $8 trillion annually, its negative impact is valued at roughly $12 trillion. And this is not the system’s only contradiction. Around the world, food systems are both affected by climate change (owing to disruptive weather and rising temperatures) and make significant contributions to it (through greenhouse-gas emissions and biodiversity destruction). The millions of jobs they provide are often low-quality and poorly paid. And, most significantly, they fail in their ultimate purpose of delivering affordable, healthy food to all.

Because the global food system is fundamentally unviable, change is inevitable. But the radical reforms needed to create an inclusive, sustainable sector that produces nourishing food for the world’s population may have devastating short-term consequences. If we take the wrong approach, incorporating the true costs of production into food systems could trigger widespread bankruptcy, devastate rural unemployment, drive up prices, and increase poverty.

The best way to achieve a rapid, fair, and safe transition to a sustainable global food system that can deliver affordable, healthy food for all is, however, a matter of heated debate. This is reflected in the strident and largely unproductive discussions taking place in the run-up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit, to be held during the UN General Assembly this month.

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