Of the $540 billion subsidies given to farmers across the globe annually, almost 90 percent are ‘harmful’ for both nature and health, according to a new United Nations report.
The UN Environment Program (UNEP) also notes that agriculture is one of the main contributors to climate change, through greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). And, that repurposing agricultural subsidies will ‘benefit our planet’.
‘Harmful’ farming practices
Released this week, the report – A multi-billion-dollar opportunity: Repurposing agricultural support to transform food systems – calls for policymakers to rethink the subsidies system. It was launched in collaboration with another UN agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Among key findings are that global subsidies are often both ‘inefficient’ and ‘inequitable’. Moreover, current practices hurt human health and ‘degrade’ the environment.
At the moment, emissions-intensive products such as beef and dairy receive the most support worldwide.
As a result, politicians must react by incentivizing farmers to move towards producing ‘more nutritious foods’.
The ‘wake up call’ over global subsidies
‘There is a clear need for action at country, regional, and global levels to phase out the more distortive, environmentally and socially harmful support’, it reads.
The agencies also call for this action to be broader, bolder, and faster as part of a more collaborative approach. This is with a view to ending poverty, mitigating the climate crisis, and restoring nature.
FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu said the report is a ‘wake-up call’ for governments. And, that it provides an opportunity to transform the food system to create a better environment for all.
Now, governments have a chance to ensure agriculture can become a ‘major driver of human well-being’, executive director of UNEP Inger Andersen added.
“We can improve livelihoods,” said Andersen, “cut emissions, protect and restore ecosystems, and reduce the use of agrochemicals.”