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'Wishy-washy' climate change deal could increase world hunger, warn campaigners

Published 02/12/2015

The impacts of rising temperatures such as drought are set to hit agricultural production, campaigners said
The impacts of rising temperatures such as drought are set to hit agricultural production, campaigners said

Hundreds of millions more people could go hungry around the world without an ambitious agreement to cut climate change emissions, campaigners have warned.

The impacts of rising temperatures such as drought are set to hit agricultural production and are already exacerbating conflicts - including the war in Syria - creating fragile states with a high proportion of people facing hunger and malnutrition, Action Against Hunger executive director Mike Penrose warned.

Negotiators from 195 countries are in the French capital Paris to hammer out a deal that will cut emissions to prevent temperature rises of more than 2C above pre-industrial levels - above which dangerous climate change is expected - and provide funding for poor countries to cope with global warming.

It is "fundamental" the new deal on climate change makes strong references to tackling the threat to food security posed by global warming and the burden that will be created without an ambitious agreement, Mr Penrose urged.

"There are 800 million people suffering from hunger and malnutrition today. If we have wishy-washy agreements in terms of carbon reduction and investment in climate adaptation, another 600 million are falling into the food insecure, hunger and undernourished bracket," he said.

Countries have already signed up to ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture in the Sustainable Development Goals agreed earlier this year.

But without a strong deal to tackle climate change, those pledges will not be met, with a significant economic cost as undernourished children fail to reach their full potential.

Campaigners want the deal to recognise the reasons for cutting emissions and that the world deserves a food-secure future, he said.

"There's a risk the race for carbon agreements, for carbon reductions, will ignore why we have a race for carbon reductions.

"Many of the impacts of climate change will reduce our ability to feed the planet, and for the food to be nutritious enough for our children to be able to learn."

He also said there was a need for more "climate smart" agriculture which produced less emissions.

He called for the removal of agricultural subsidies in the US and EU, warning the payments paid farmers to grow food that is not used, creating unnecessary carbon emissions, or to produce carbon intensive foods such as meat.

"We have to recognise that we need to eat less meat," he urged.

Elsewhere, countries such as India have seen a shift away from a lentil-heavy diet to one more focused on wheat, which is more carbon intensive and less nutritious.

While he was not calling for everyone to become vegan, small changes could have a big impact, he said.

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