Biodiversity critical for food systems – UN Food Systems Pre-Summit

As the world faces unprecedented threats, including as a result of the climate change-poverty-conflict nexus, a systems approach which recognizes the complex interplay between human activity and nature is mandatory as we seek to re-balance the planet.

Loss of biosphere integrity (biodiversity loss and extinctions) is one of the four planetary boundaries breached by human activity. Food systems currently negatively effect all four of the breached planetary boundaries. At the Ministerial Roundtable on the UN Food Systems Summit and Rio Conventions on Biodiversity, Climate Chagne, and Desertification (28 July 2021), Dr Martin Frick Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit noted that “The way we produce our food is the biggest killer of biodiversity…”.

According to the UN Food Systems Summit, too many of the world’s food systems are fragile, unexamined and vulnerable to collapse: When food systems fail, the resulting disorder threatens education, health and economy, as well as human rights, peace and security. As in so many cases, those who are already poor or marginalized are the most vulnerable. However, scientists agree that transforming food systems is among the most powerful ways to change course.

The UN Environment Programme urges that restoring biodiversity means strengthening the resilience of food systems, enabling farmers to diversify production and cope with pests, diseases and climate change. It would also reduce the risk of zoonotic virus spillover. Restoring biodiversity, such as in the form of regenerating forests, also allows communities to be freed from food insecurity and aid dependence, and to enjoy a micro climate which attracts rains.

The UN Food Systems Pre-Summit (26-28 July 2021) contains an important focus on biodiversity as a key to mitigating the climate change impacts of – and stabilizing – human food systems. The focus must be not only on net zero but on nature positive where we urgently and actively contribute to restoring nature’s depleted assets. In the words of WWF: “The world must come together to reverse nature loss and safeguard the future of humanity”.

There must also be a focus on equity. In an impassioned address, Jeffrey D. Sachs, advisor to three United Nations Secretaries-General, talked of the grotesque inequality the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed, and noted that the world’s 2,775 billionaires have a net worth of US $13.1 trillion: A billion dollars is enough for them to live on, so they have an excess of $11 trillion. We should be taxing that and having a civilized world, he said. The UN Core budget this year is $3 billion. Listen to Jeffrey’s speech here (2:07:54)

Some interesting links below:

Human rights, sustainable development and biodiversity

Food systems, business and biodiversity


Regeneration 30×30

Net Zero regeneration reliance

  • More than 120 countries have pledged to reach net zero by 2050, and one-fifth of the world’s 2,000 largest publicly listed corporations have net zero goals that are dependent upon land-based carbon sinks. Oxfam’s report “Tightening the Net” (August 2021) warns over-relying on planting trees and as-yet-unproven technology instead of genuinely shifting away from fossil fuel-dependent economies is a dangerous folly.
  • The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land (January 2020) says large-scale afforestation could cause increases in food prices of 80% by 2050, leading to food insecurity.

Planetary boundaries

Updated 4 August 2021



Liberty & Humanity

“The biodiversity crisis is as serious as the climate crisis…The time for sustainability is over; to sustain is to sustain crisis… Do we want to build back, or do we want to build forward?” Dr Martin Frick Deputy to the Special Envoy for the UN Food Systems Summit, day 3 of the Pre-Summit

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 1993 has 196 State Parties and was signed by 150 government leaders at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Conceived as a practical tool for translating the principles of Agenda 21 into reality, the Convention recognizes that biological diversity is about more than plants, animals and micro organisms and their ecosystems – it is about people and our need for food security, medicines, fresh air and water, shelter, and a clean and healthy environment in which to live.

Read about the CBD Gender Plan of Action here.