In this Report, we analyze existing information and research – with a focus on peer-reviewed literature – about climate change impacts and opportunities regarding a broad range of food system activities. We articulate a food systems perspective as a starting point to broaden our understanding beyond individual components of food systems; we need to better understand, integrate and create action related to food systems and climate change, beyond agricultural production. This focal shift is critical for multiple reasons, including: 

  • Food systems based approaches have greater mitigation and adaptation potential than a concentration on agriculture alone;
  • A food systems focus enables exploration of supply and demand side mitigation and adaptation co-benefits as well as the potential synergies or trade-offs between strategies;
  • A food systems perspective supports integration of equity, sustainability governance, and other key drivers and components that determine food systems and food systems transformation.
  • A food systems approach enables stakeholders to identify synergies with broader policy priorities, in particular priorities related to SDGs, and efficiently use available resources.
  • Food systems and climate change have been understudied, with clear gaps in strategies that could have potential impacts on food security into the future (e.g., cold chain expansion, sea-level rise and food transportation); and
  • Adopting a food systems approach to climate change enables integration of sustainability options that fall outside of agricultural production (e.g., dietary choices, food waste, technological innovation, clean energy, governance, and insurance as a strategy for risk management). 

The Authors document numerous specific mitigation opportunities and their adaptation potential (information on opportunities is available here).  However, for near-term immediate actions to result in transitions to sustainable food systems, stakeholders should define sustainability and work together to identify their shared interests as well as obstacles to change. Such understanding will enable stakeholders to choose near-term actions that can lead towards sustainability. 

The Report is intended to offer a broad perspective on food system activities and help stakeholders explore new partnerships, share knowledge, and identify diverse communities, sectors, and stakeholders that have roles to play in support of changes that are needed within their food systems. We hope that the report will contribute to deeper understanding of food systems and climate change and thoughtful review and development of actions that will – ultimately – contribute to sustainable food systems.  

The Report’s objectives are to:

  • Review and synthesize peer-reviewed literature that examines impacts of food system activities and climate change (Sections 3 and 4).
  • Illustrate how applying a food systems perspective to climate change mitigation actions can be used to drive transformation and help policymakers anticipate effects from specific mitigation and adaptation opportunities (Section 5).
  • Document a range of opportunities that –in the near-term – would support climate mitigation while efforts to drive broader system transformation are pursued (available here).