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Climate change poses major threat to food security, warns UN expert

Source(s):  United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Geneva – “Climate change poses severe and distinct threats to food security, and could subject an additional 600 million people to malnutrition by 2080,” warned today the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver.

“Increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather, rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as floods and droughts have a significant impact on the right to food,” said the expert. “All these climate incidents will negatively impact on crops, livestock, fisheries, aquaculture and on people’s livelihoods,” she added.

“Responding to the food demand through large-scale production oriented agricultural models is not the right solution,” warned Ms. Elver.

“There is a need for a major shift from industrial agriculture to transformative systems such as agro-ecology that support the local food movement, protect small holder farmers, respect human rights, food democracy and cultural traditions, and at the same time maintain environmental sustainability and facilitate a healthy diet.”

“Those who have contributed the least to global warming are the ones set to suffer the most from its harmful effects,” stressed Ms. Elver. “Urgent action is needed to respond to the challenges posed by climate change,” she added, “but mitigation and adaptation policies should respect the right to food as well as other fundamental human rights.”

The Special Rapporteur makes her recommendations in advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) due to take place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The aim of the summit is to achieve a universally applicable legal instrument under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Civil society pressure is mounting on the parties of the UNFCCC to achieve results in Paris by adopting a human rights approach to the climate change agreement that will respect, protect and fulfill human rights of all persons, and especially those most vulnerable. Any agreement must include a clear commitment by all relevant parties to ensuring climate justice and food security for all,” stressed Ms. Elver.

“As jointly stated by all special procedure mandate holders* on World Environment Day in June, Governments should ̔make sure that human rights are at the core of climate change governance.’”

The Special Rapporteur highlighted her concerns surrounding the impact of climate change on the right to food in her recent report** presented to the UN General Assembly on 23 October 2015.


* See related link below on Joint statement by UN Special Procedures on the occasion of World Environment Day (5 June 2015)

** See relation link below on Promotion and protection of human rights: human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms: right to food - note by the Secretary General [ext. link]

Hilal Elver (Turkey) is a distinguished Global Fellow at Resnick Food Law and Policy Program at UCLA Law School.

She was appointed Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food by the Human Rights Council in 2014. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organisation and serves in her individual capacity. Learn more at the related link below.

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  • Publication date 03 Nov 2015

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