Global Youth Urge Businesses and Policymakers to Center Healthy, Sustainable Diets

Youth leaders across five continents recently released an open letter urging businesses and policymakers to address the intertwined issues of food production, climate change, and environmental degradation.

The letter calls for global fora including the U.N. Biodiversity Conference (COP15), the Nutrition for Growth Summit, and Stockholm+50 to center healthy and sustainable diets.

Several global organizations and food systems leaders have signed onto the letter, including 50by40, the Rockefeller Foundation, U.N. Nutrition, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, and human security are projected to increase with global warming of 1.5°C. Now, in the open letter, young people around the world assert that it will be impossible to limit warming to 1.5 degrees without widespread dietary change.

“If we could achieve progress on food systems, we could achieve progress on so much more,” Lana Weidgenant, Deputy Partnerships Director at Zero Hour, tells Food Tank.

The modern industrialized food system drives climate change and environmental degradation, and contributes to a rising burden of diet-related chronic diseases. To address these environmental and health consequences, the letter advises businesses and policymakers to commit to five key actions.

According to the authors, forthcoming global fora should include healthy and sustainable diets and develop a global approach to measuring progress. There must be scaling of a regenerative and agroecological approach to health-promoting food production, ideally supported by agricultural subsidies. Businesses and policymakers should include tangible strategies related to healthy, sustainable diets. Governments, businesses, and academia should adopt frameworks that account for the true cost of food. Finally, the letter says, businesses and governments should invest in sustainable future foods, which include alternative proteins.

“We as young people are powerful, we can take action, we’re making these innovations…but we need the support of the decision-makers in government and business,” Weidgenant says.

Photo courtesy of Katie Rodriguez, Unsplash

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